Rwandan Women Rising
Discussion Guide

Aloisea Inyumba was the minister of gender, head of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, governor, and senator.

This guide offers adaptable topics and questions for reflection and conversation among those who seek to apply to their own work the lessons learned from the experience and achievements of Rwandan women:

  • Students ranging from high school to post-doctoral level, including students at military service academies and graduate schools
  • Members of civil society around the world—not only in pre- and post-conflict nations, but also ones, like the United States, that are woefully behind in women’s political representation.
  • Policymakers in conflict regions seeking to help nations create a more stable and secure environment by increasing the involvement of women in peace-building processes at all levels.
  • Specialists in multilateral organizations who seek to help other nations increase the number of women in leadership at all levels.

Women are providing leadership. There’s no way you can talk about the transformation of society unless that group is involved. Much as we want to benefit from this process, we also want to be a part of it. There’s no way you can avoid 55 percent of a population and think they’ll be just recipients.


Emerging from unspeakable tragedy, Rwanda’s women leaders have built an inspiring and encouraging example—in just two decades—of how women can enact positive changes and transform societies. Women led the stunning reconciliation process and massive justice system to bring their country together after mass violence erupted in 1994, killing one of every ten citizens—nearly a million dead in 100 days. That’s the equivalent of 32 million Americans murdered in one summer.

Rwandan Women Rising tells the story of how Rwandan women saved their own country after genocide, creating a model for lasting security in countries worldwide. This book will enlighten students of Rwanda, African studies, and the field of peace and security; beyond that, it will inspire women and girls everywhere, setting a bar for strength in the face of the worst adversity imaginable. Most important, it provides a case study on why including women leaders as decision makers is essential for lasting peace and stability everywhere.

An extraordinary legacy has managed to take root in the wake of tragedy. Today, Rwanda leads the world in women’s political representation. As chaos cracked open Rwandan culture, women were no longer confined to holding positions of influence solely in the home. When the society was disrupted, they stepped up, expanding and formalizing their leadership roles, first out of necessity. As they have proven their strong capabilities, they have become an indispensable part of all levels and sectors of society. 

Discussion Resources

  1. What are the sources of a woman’s leadership? »
  2. How can husbands or other male partners help create space for women to lead? »
  3. What are the roles of government officials in advancing the inclusion of women? »
  4. Do women need to adopt “male” characteristics for their voices to be heard? »
  5. How can women interact productively with men whose mindsets are still entrenched against women as leaders? »
  6. Are women a pacifying force? What qualities do they bring to the table? »
  7. How do “women’s issues” relate to overall security? »
  8. How important is mentorship among women? »
June 2017 | Duke University Press