Rwandan Women Rising
Discussion Guide

Are women a pacifying force? What qualities do they bring to the table?

First Lady Jeanette Kagame is the head of the Imbuto Foundation, which focuses on health and education for women and girls, along with many other issues.

Book Excerpts

Over the long sweep of history, women have been and will be a pacifying force. Traditional war is a man’s game: tribal women never band together to raid neighboring villages.

—Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2011)

In the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could.

—Abigail Adams (1776)

Since post-conflict is usually pre-conflict, we can wonder how the U.S. Constitution might be different had John Adams’ memory been better. Had half the drafters been women, might they have given themselves the vote, instead of having to wait 150 years? Since we know that women tend to look out for other excluded groups, might they have insisted on voting rights for all adults, including black people? Or perhaps directly abolished slavery, saving the country from a civil war, the greatest horror of its history?

—Rwandan Women Rising, p. 366

“Traditionally women did not serve in roles where they would be in the spotlight. During the post-genocide gacaca grassroots justice process, however, communities elected judges based on their virtue. A lot of women were chosen because they were regarded as the most honest, tenacious, and resilient.”

—Ambassador Joy Mukanyange in Rwandan Women Rising, p. 203

Discussion Questions

  • Discuss Pinker’s assertion, keeping in mind that the book does mention a number of women who were complicit or even helped to plan or execute the Rwandan genocide.
  • When national security is exclusively a male-dominated task, what elements get missed?
  • What qualities and characteristics do women bring to the table when it comes to making policy?
  • Historically, how have conflict resolutions that did not include the voices of women end up? What sorts of issues might women have considered that were overlooked?
    • Consider the example of the American Revolution: If women had been involved in drafting the Constitution, could they (would they?) have given women and African-Americans the legal right to vote, perhaps avoiding the Civil War?

June 2017 | Duke University Press