A New Generation: Life in Rwanda Twenty Years after the Genocide

click to return to small screen layout. click to return to small screen layout.
  • In Rwanda, children are born into communities; women living in the same community take care of their children collectively.

  • Sometimes children have the chance to start preschool as early as the age of four. In this preschool in Gahurire, a rural village, children go to preschool in the same building where their mothers work on craft projects.

  • Children often travel long distances to school. A walk to school may take hours, and many children are responsible for fetching water on their way home. While bikes would make the walk to school faster, they are not a common possession. Most bikes are too big for children to ride, and biking accidents pose a frequent safety risk for young children.

  • Rwanda has high rates of primary school enrollment. While both rural and urban families highly value education, some families struggle to send their children to secondary school due to financial restrictions.

  • Rwandan children are curious to learn; here, they explore their surroundings and listen to their elders.

  • Children in Rwanda assume responsibilities at a very young age. Taking care of one’s younger siblings is a childhood reality for both girls and boys.

  • Religion plays an important role in people’s lives. Sunday services may last up to five hours and include cheerful songs, dancing, and meeting with friends.

  • Due to improved healthcare, the current infant mortality rate is less than half of the 1990 rate.

  • Boys have a higher chance of going to secondary school than girls for cultural and social reasons. Many students who go to secondary school do not finish their studies as they become older and need to contribute to the family’s farming duties.

  • People living in rural areas often rely on agriculture as a form of subsistence farming. Raising animals such as pigs, goats, and chickens provides extra income and food.

  • Women in Rwanda are powerful in both household and governmental settings. Rwanda has the highest number of women in parliament in the world.

  • Elders have a place of high esteem in Rwandan culture. Oral history and its lessons continue to be a part of daily life.

  • Rwanda has developed fast in the past twenty years. The genocide is in the past, but the country’s quest to overcome challenges continues.

  • Comment
  • Tweet
  • Share
  • Email
  • Print

“A New Generation: Life in Rwanda Twenty Years after the Genocide” by Enni Kallio was the winner of YJIA’s 2015 Photo Essay Contest.

Kwibuka? Remember? On April 6, 1994 the airplane carrying the President of Rwanda, Juvénal Habyarimana, and the President of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira, was shot down. Everyone on board was killed. During the one hundred days that followed, previously inconceivable violence targeting Tutsi civilians and moderate Hutus overtook the country. The violence built upon Rwanda’s history of ethnic discrimination and a series of previous smaller conflicts. Between eight hundred thousand and one million men, women, and children were massacred. Kwibuka? Remember? “If you must remember, remember this…The Nazis did not kill six million Jews…nor the Interahamwe kill a million Tutsis, they killed one and then another, then another…Genocide is not a single act of murder, it is millions of acts of murder” (Kigali Genocide Memorial Center).

Rwanda faced numerous challenges in the aftermath of the bloodshed. Wartime rape led to a spike in HIV infections and unintended pregnancies. Women were widowed, children were orphaned, and entire families were lost. The country’s infrastructure was in shatters, and millions of Rwandans lived in refugee camps in neighboring countries.

Two decades after the genocide, life in Rwanda looks very different. Certainly, regarding political and civil liberties, the country has a long way ahead. But the economy is prospering—the construction of roads, health centers, schools, and commercial buildings clips along at a fast pace. A variety of crops cover the country’s hillsides, including cassava, potatoes, bananas, beans, and sorghum.

Many people have returned to their homes and are working toward a better Rwanda. A new generation of Rwandans is growing up in a country that has a dark history but seemingly promising future. The government has improved its health policies and promoted awareness of HIV/AIDS. School enrollment rates are high, and Rwandans are increasingly pursuing education as a pathway out of poverty. Religion and faith play an important role in the majority of Rwandans’ lives. Through faith, they have been able to create communities that are peaceful with one another. On Sunday mornings, singing emanates from churches, people dance, and songs of joy echo from the hills and valleys all across Rwanda.

About the Author

Enni Kallio is a photographer from Finland where she studied photography at Espoo School of Arts. She is currently pursuing a Master of Environmental Management at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. More of her photography is available at the following link: http://enniiida.wix.com/photography


  • Comment
  • Tweet
  • Share
  • Email
  • Print

One thought on “A New Generation: Life in Rwanda Twenty Years after the Genocide

Tell us your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


In association with the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs