Day of Reflection: How We Are Still Building Better Lives in Rwanda

Rwanda, often referred to as the “land of a thousand hills,” is a small country in eastern Africa of 12.5 million people. In April 1994, amid civil war and political unrest, the country entered a period of nearly 100 days in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were brutally massacred by Hutu extremist militias. 

When the genocide ended in July 1994, it left behind many widows, orphans, and rape victims, as well as families and communities that had been torn apart. It is now estimated that 56.6 percent of the population in Rwanda lives below the poverty line, and 83 percent live in rural areas. 

Today, on the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda, we reflect on our partnership in Rwanda with Solidarité pour l’Épanouissement des Veuves et des Orphelins visant le Travail et l’Auto Promotion (SEVOTA) and how we have been able to be a part of improving lives of Rwandans through literacy. 

SEVOTA founder Godelieve Mukasarasi

SEVOTA was founded in 1994 by Godelieve Mukasarasi to rebuild after the genocide by improving the moral, social, political, cultural, and economic conditions of the people it serves, specifically women 

In this context, ProLiteracy partnered with SEVOTA in 1998 to provide functional literacy classes and education focused on health and HIV/AIDS awareness, human rights, women’s and children’s rights, environmental protection, peace and conflict resolution, entrepreneurship, and other topics of interest. With funding from the West Foundation we completed the Rwandan Women’s Health Handbook. 

The handbook impacted 300 low-literate women by educating them about sensitive health topics while incorporating content to improve their literacy levels. We are thrilled by the success of the handbook, which led to 60 percent of participants improving their literacy and health understanding. Because of these outcomes, ProLiteracy and SEVOTA are now continuing to grow our longstanding partnership through the Women: Better Life First project. 

We are excited to say that this new project will look to disseminate the educational content of the Rwandan Women's Health Handbook to 350 young women and their households. The objective is to:  

  1. Guide women in their discussions about sensitive health topics, while incorporating specific content to deepen their literacy levels  
  2. Stimulate reading, dialogue, and community learning  
  3. Strengthen the knowledge and capacities of program beneficiaries in the areas of women's health and encourage them to seek out useful information through reading 
  4. Offer training sessions for women to integrate and maintain the positive effects of the project into the community  

On this day of reflection, it’s worth noting that though we can’t forget the horrific events of the pastwe can learn from them. With education, we give people the tools they need to gain independence and maintain peace. 

Learn more about our international work and partnerships at 

ProLiteracy also offers an International Membership option filled with benefits. Learn more at 



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