— First Lady of Rwanda (@FirstLadyRwanda) April 15, 2016
Dignified Rwandan woman,
It has been more than half a century, yet we remember you vividly.
The many who were taken away from us, and the last few, who in our darkest times,
Beautifully drew from the deepest roots of our culture,
To keep their families together, and to nurture an abiding love and patriotism for our nation.
You inspired us to aim for more, to do more, to never lose hope.
You kept a candle lit in our darkest times, your star never dimmed in the starkest night.
History will always praise the sacrifices you consented for your communities,
Your selflessness was not in vain.
The generation of sons and daughters you bore and raised, made the ultimate sacrifice,
And shouldered the task of building a new and dignified nation.
We shall never forget the high price that was paid, to be who we are today.
Investing in the future of your children became the purpose of your lives.
We are forever indebted to you.
We will forever be grateful and rejoice in your achievements.
We will draw pride and lessons from every obstacle you overcame.
This land will see the peace, respect, and dignity all her sons and daughters deserve.
Remarkable Rwandan woman,
You are truly remarkable, Rwandan woman!
Your essence is made of strength and courage is what defines you.
For our history is filled with brave women of all ages
Who refused to be complicit in tearing apart our country,
They were not bystanders to injustice and violence.
Instead they made the difficult, but right choice.
From the Nyange school girls who paid the ultimate price with their lives,
Refusing to be separated along ethnic lines,
To the wives who stood up against their husbands,
And refused to stay silent in the face of the crimes they committed.
Women like Rose, who for years believed in sectarian ideology
But ultimately freed herself from divisive politics.
Or the women raised by those who carefully planned, and executed the genocide,
Who finally broke the cycle of perpetual hatred from one generation to another,
To all of those who now call themselves, proud daughters of Rwanda.
Powerful woman, we honour you.
Beloved Rwandan woman,
We honour you,
The widows, who despite your aching hearts,
Formed new families and cherished the genocide orphans
Who longed for your warm motherly love,
Earning the endearing name, “Les Mamans Affection,”
For finding in yourselves the courage to give some more,
After so much had been taken away from you.
You are much more than a mother, wife, sister, and daughter.
Dignified, remarkable, beloved Rwandan woman,
You are the matriarch, pioneer, leader, descended from greatness,
Who holds up high the torch that lights the way for others to follow.
You pave the way and weave the thread to those who need to hear your stories,
So they too, will know that within them, lie the tools to resilience.
Through your passion, you engaged us
Through your words, you educated us
Through your actions, you empowered us
I speak from the heart, when I say that we are proud of you.
You are the rock upon which we have built our foundation.
You have now reclaimed your rightful place among the leaders of our country.
Unwavering and firm, you lift up your song in synchrony
With that of your brothers’ chorus, which for too long
Had been missing your soft yet, powerful voice.
Never does the word NO stop you from pushing onto new frontiers
For without your determination, who would the younger ones look up to?
For through you, future generations will know that a woman’s worth is equal to any man’s.
Now and always, we pay tribute to you.
Her Excellency Mrs Jeannette Kagame is the First Lady of the Republic of Rwanda.
This tribute to the remarkable Rwandan women was first published in the April/May 2016 edition of Forbes Woman Magazine.