The Legacy and Love of Aloisea Inyumba

When I was in Rwanda last, I asked a five-year-old girl what she would like to be when she grows up. She enthusiastically responded, "President!" The response was so surprising, and a true testament to the type of country Rwanda has become -- a country where women have risen to become the leading voice of public policy and currently hold 56 percent of the national parliamentary seats.

I was drawn to work in Rwanda for this exact reason. With the majority of parliament being female, it was through a women's lens that much of Rwanda was rebuilt after the genocide. Rwanda now has everything from a women's abuse floor built into the new hospital to a strategic plan to address women's HIV needs.

One of the great drivers of this force was my friend, Aloisea Inyumbo, who so tragically passed away on Thursday. Aloisea, the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion in Rwanda, devoted her life to giving the women of Rwanda a voice after years of being oppressed and undervalued.


I had the great privilege of working with Aloisea in Rwanda. She would accompany me when I met with the artisans I employ for the fair-trade initiative SAME SKY. She took the time from her busy schedule to help me deal with the artisan's needs and translate them into a way that SAME SKY could accommodate. But this is just the type of woman she was -- so naturally devoted to every facet of women rebuilding their lives.

At just 48, Aloisea left us far too soon, but I have great faith that her legacy will live on not just in Rwanda, but also internationally. Rwanda still has more women in Parliament than any country on its continent, and more than most of the world for that matter. These are the women who will continue to pioneer and set the golden standard of how the rest of the world can work towards peaceful equality.

So with that said, Rwanda's great leap from the darkest days of the 1994 genocide, where a million people were murdered in 100 days, to its current economic growth seems like a miracle. But the miracle is the strength and audacity of women like Aloisea who demanded that their country use its full potential -- both male and female -- to rebuild, reconcile, and remind the world that women are invaluable citizens.