Rwanda’s First Lady Mrs. Jeannette Kagame has told male youth at a workshop that coming out to find help is not a sign of weakness – instead a show of courage.
“Imagine a 5 year old facing the horrible acts of the genocide when they have no control of the outcomes,” she said. “Do not feel ashamed to go out searching for help because what caused your situation is not your fault.”
The First Lady was speaking to some 200 young male survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi at a mentorship series organised by Imbuto Foundation.
The three-day programme taking place at AVEGA-East facility in Rwamagana district – Eastern Province, is the first edition that brings together young men. This year, following previous mentorships that targeted young women survivors of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, the project has been moved to the males.
“In our culture it is not easy for boys or men to speak out what it is in their hearts,” she said. “We know some of you go through trauma.”
The Youth Forum Series is part of the Foundation’s Youth Empowerment and Mentorship Programme, which started in 2007, and through which an array of activities have been organised on a national scale, to fully engage, educate and empower young people.
Organised under the them: “Strong and Dignified”, this forum was created to help address the challenges some young men face as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder, caused in part by their experiences during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Following this forum, young male participants and future mentees will be paired with mentors, who will provide guidance, through various topics and issues that will be discussed during the three-day forum.
Established by the First Lady Mrs Jeannette Kagame in 2001, Imbuto Foundation has been implementing a holistic approach to uplift the most vulnerable communities through education, health, and socio-economic programmes.
Each year, the Youth Forum Sessions brings together specific segments of youth and features exceptional speakers on topics, ranging from socio-economic and political awareness, professionalism, entrepreneurship, communication, self-reliance, to unity and reconciliation.
Participants at this forum attracted young men between the age of 22 to 27, drawn from all four provinces and City of Kigali.
The First Lady asked for need to further build the capacity of youth in order to help them foster growth of the country while also improving their livelihoods.
“We are happy to see children like you have grown up and reached this level when we know the challenges you faced,” she said.
“You have made your parents happy and the whole country at large. We thank you for strength you have when we know the challenges you go through as genocide survivors.”
On a panel discussion, renowned public speaker Sister Immaculee Marie Umugiraneza told the youths to always ensure to forgive as they build their lives. Experiences during genocide should be used to fight for peace and reconciliation, she said.
“You must be focused, patient and avoid rush decisions because this is how you will be able to rebuild your life and support others,” she added.
Emmanuel Twahirwa coordinator of an association of student survivors of genocide (AERG) said that imbuto foundation was at the centre of supporting genocide survivors mainly in education, technical training for genocide survivors.
The Imbuto Foundation has supported several survivors’ projects such as ‘Ejo heza’ project for the survivors of genocide who didn’t pursue their studies as well as further public speaking.