Review of a Women & Leadership delegation in Rwanda (December 2015)

In early December, Half Sky Journeys founder Ila Asplund took a delegation of American women leaders to Rwanda. The program was part of our Women & Leadership series. Here are some impressions:

Ila Asplund on what makes Rwanda unique:
Nowhere on earth is there a model for women’s leadership quite like Rwanda’s. Cultivating a unique “ecosystem” of grassroots heroes, innovative nonprofits, healthcare access, progressive government, and emerging business – the “land of a thousand hills” is widely lauded as the success story of the developing world today.

Athena Phillips (Integrative Trauma Treatment Center, Portland) on Rwanda’s healing after genocide:
Rwanda has been able to do several things that have allowed the country to move towards healing. The first is the acknowledgement that racial division is dangerous; it is not allowable to identify people based on ethnicity. One Rwanda, One People. The second is responding appropriately by building community and helping people in concrete ways. There has been a significant effort to provide justice to survivors at a community level; survivors have a voice in that process and it is very intimate.

As a result, Rwanda is now the safest country in Africa and has crime rates lower than the majority of states in the U.S. Citizens are required to give back to their community every month (it’s the law!). Rwanda is spotless; there is no trash anywhere! Rwanda’s economy is stable and strong and growing. There are laws supporting women – for example there must be a certain percentage of women in governing positions. Leveling the playing field between ethnic groups and gender has fostered a very stable and growing economy; one of the strongest in the region.

Rwanda has figured out how to recover and thrive following a very recent and horrific tragedy in their country; we can all learn from what they have done.

Ila Asplund on shared moments of generous exchange:
The women we met in Rwanda – healers, teachers, mentors, students, innovators, governors – each one we met took us literally or figuratively into their hands, looked into our faces, and shared moments of generous exchange. Their stories, their wisdom, their struggles, their laughter. From morning to night for over a week, we looked to them and to each other as fellow travelers – seeking to receive, to understand, and to give something of ourselves.

Upcoming Women & Leadership programs
Interested to join one of our Women & Leadership programs? Here are the upcoming destinations and dates for 2016:

  • South Africa (with Prof. Jackie Shahzadi): August 13-20
  • South Africa (with Prof. Shirley Randell): August 27-September 3
  • Rwanda: October 1-8
  • Tanzania: November 12-19
  • Vietnam: December 10-17

For more information, please visit our program page here.