learn more at: www.thirteen.org/edonline/wideangle

Rwanda: You Go, Girls!
by Margaret Fay


TIME ALLOTMENT: Two to three class periods

The PBS WIDE ANGLE documentary series analyzes a number of significant and current global issues. In "Ladies First" (2004), WIDE ANGLE delivers a riveting report on the political and socio-economic success of the Rwandan women after the genocide of 1994 that divided the country's major ethnic groups, the Tutsi and the Hutu.

The purpose of this lesson is to use "Ladies First" to show not only that women working together can and did create a dialogue and a basis for trust among ethnic groups, but also to show how these same women are challenging their traditional role in Rwandan society and assuming unprecedented leadership.

Although the basis of the lesson is the success of women in Rwanda post-genocide, the lesson begins with a clip from the movie HOTEL RWANDA, which establishes the devastating brutality of 1994 that left the country in utter ruin.

As a Culminating Activity, students will use various Web sites to hone skills needed for the Global Studies Regents Exam, including: analyzing statistical, economic, and demographic information; a map exercise; and the interpretation of a primary document.

SUBJECT MATTER: Global History and Geography/World History


Students will be able to:
  • Define "genocide;"

  • Identify the challenges a nation faces after experiencing genocide;

  • Describe ways in which Rwandan women are assuming leadership in their country;

  • Appreciate the influence of tradition in the shifting roles of Rwandan women;

  • Draw conclusions from statistical and demographic data;

  • Synthesize primary source information.


New York State Learning Standards for Social Studies
Standards available online at http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/socst/pub/sslearn.pdf.

    Standard 2. World History (commencement)
    Performance Indicators:

      1. Students:

      • Define culture and civilization, explaining how they developed and changed over time. Investigate the various components of cultures and civilizations including social customs, norms, values, and traditions; political systems; economic systems; religions and spiritual beliefs; and socialization or educational practices.

      3. Students:

      • Explain the dynamics of cultural change and how interactions between and among cultures has affected various cultural groups throughout the world.

      • Examine the social/cultural, political, economic, and religious norms and values of Western and other world cultures.

    Standard 4. Economics (commencement)
    Performance Indicators:

      1. Students:

      • Analyze the effectiveness of varying ways societies, nations, and regions of the world attempt to satisfy their basic needs and wants by utilizing scarce resources.

      2. Students:

      • Identify, locate, and evaluate economic information from standard reference works, newspapers, periodicals, computer databases, monographs, textbooks, government publications, and other primary and secondary sources.

      • Use economic information by identifying similarities and differences in trends; inferring relationships between various elements of an economy: organizing and arranging information in charts, tables, and graphs; extrapolating and making conclusions about economic questions, issues, and problems.

New York State Regents Global History and Geography Curriculum Tie-Ins
Curriculum available online at http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/socst/pub/sscore2.pdf

    Unit Seven: The 20th Century since l945

      3. African independence movements and Pan Africanism

        g. Ethnic tensions: Rwanda -- Hutu-Tutsi

    Unit Eight: Global Connections and Interactions

      2. Social and Political Patterns and Change

      4. Modernization/tradition -- finding a balance

        c. African

      7. Status of women and children

        a. Economic issues

        b. Social issues

        c. Political issues

      8. Ethnic and religious tensions: an analysis of multiple perspectives

Advanced Placement World History Curriculum Tie-Ins
Course Description available online at:
(Requires the Adobe Acrobat Reader)

    Major Developments:

      3. New patterns of nationalism (racism, genocide)

      6. Social reform and social revolution (changing gender roles; rise of feminism)

    Major Comparisons and Snapshots

    • Compare patterns and results of decolonization in African and India.

    • Compare legacies of colonialism and patterns of economic development in two of three areas (Africa, Asia, and Latin America).


    WIDE ANGLE, "Ladies First" (2004) (selected clips)

    Web Sites:


    For the class:

    For each cooperative group of students:

    For each student:


    Prior to teaching this lesson, you will need to:

    Bookmark the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom, or upload all links to an online bookmarking utility such as www.portaportal.com.

    Preview all of the video clips and Web sites used in the lesson to make certain that they are appropriate for your students, currently available, and accessible from your classroom.

    Download the video clips used in this lesson onto your hard drive, or prepare to stream the clips from your classroom. RealPlayer is needed to view the video clips. If your classroom computer does not have it, download RealPlayer for free at www.real.com.

    Prepare your projector and/or TV with internet connection (if available) to display the HOTEL RWANDA trailer for the class.

    Copy the student organizers for individual and group use.

    When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, Web sites, or other multimedia elements.

    Procedures for Teachers


    1. Distribute "Student Organizer #1: Rwanda Videos" to the students. Ask the class to brainstorm the definition of "genocide." Discuss student responses, and come up with a definition as a class. Have the students write the definition the vocabulary section of Student Organizer #1. (Genocide = the systematic killing, or attempted killing, of all of the people from a national, ethnic or religious group). Then ask the students to provide examples of countries have experienced genocide in the 20th century (German Holocaust, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Pol Pot's Cambodia, China-Tibet, Turkey/Armenians, Rwanda).

    2. If your students are not already familiar with it, review the main facts of the 1994 Rwandan genocide with them: In April 1994, Rwanda's then-powerful Hutu carried out a systematic slaughter of the Tutsi people. The aim was to stop invading Rwandan Tutsi revolutionaries and to remove their local support by liquidating their power base. The Hutu-led Mouvement Révolutionnaire Nationale pour le Développement (MRND -- National Revolutionary Movement for Development) and its military carried out an attempt at genocide. In response, Tutsi revolutionaries took control of the country in July, stemming the violence. But in terms of genocide, most observers would agree that the Hutus were frighteningly successful -- killing more than 800,000 people in a short three-month period.

    3. Have the HOTEL RWANDA trailer (at www.hotelrwanda.com/intro.html) ready to play. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION: ask the students to think about what effects the mass murder of an ethnic or religious group might have on a nation. Click on "Trailer" and PLAY the trailer. After viewing this clip ask the class in what ways mass murders of an ethnic or religious group might influence a nation (there may be a variety of answers to this question, including: loss of life on a mass scale; trauma for the survivors of the genocide; distrust; anger; a desire for revenge between the survivors and the perpetrators of the murders; loss of leadership [especially true if the victims were educated and/or economically and politically strong]; ingrained fear among the survivors that there could be a repeat genocide). Encourage the class to elaborate on their answers, and summarize their points on the chalkboard. Use the information from the clip from HOTEL RWANDA and the students' comments about ethnic conflict to discuss what could be done to unite a country that has experienced genocide (Answers may vary).


    1. Remind the students of their discussion about the difficulties of nations experiencing genocide and explain that the video "Ladies First" is a documentary (nonfiction) film that illustrates how women are rebuilding Rwanda in the wake of the genocide of close to a million Tutsis by Hutu militias in a 100-day period in 1994. Provide the students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION: ask the class to determine three ways in which women are taking leadership roles in Rwanda. PLAY Clip 1, "Breaking New Ground," for the class. Ask the class to list three areas in which women are taking the lead in Rwanda (In government, business and promoting peace). Tell the students that in the clip Christine says that "women have to be equal to men in the development of 'our' country." Why would this be important? (Varied responses). This question, concerning the equality of women, should be discussed at length, since it is the inspiration of "Ladies First."

    2. Provide the students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION: ask the class, "Why do you think that 70% of Rwanda's population in 1994 was female?" PLAY Clip 2, "70% Female," for the class. Review the focus question with the students: why was 70% of Rwanda's population female in 1994? (The men and boys were either killed or escaped death by fleeing to neighboring countries). Ask the class to brainstorm and define "tradition" on their organizer (culturally or socially characteristic attitudes, customs, or behavior). Provide the students with a new FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION: ask: how did the influence of traditional values restrict Rwandan women from being economically independent? REPLAY Clip 2. Review the responses to focus question with the students (Women could not own land, have bank accounts or work outside of the home without their husband's permission). Ask: How are Rwandan women becoming politically powerful? (They participate in every level of government and control almost half of the seats in the National Parliament.) Lead a discussion around the students' answers. Ask the students to refer to their organizer and define "primary source" (a first-hand account or artifact, created by someone directly involved in an event). Have the students interpret the quotations of the two speakers in this clip in a few sentences. Discuss their responses.

    1. Provide the students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to define "ethnic" on Organizer #1. PLAY Clip 3, "Suffering and Recovery," for the class. Review the definition of ethnic (relating to a group of people classified by common characteristics such as language, tribe, custom, religion, or national origin). Lead the class in a discussion of the main issue of this clip: How can trust be established by people who have suffered, and those who caused the suffering? (Answers will vary).

    1. Provide the students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to define "cash crop" on Organizer #1. PLAY Clip 4, "Small Business," for the class. Review with the class: what is a "cash crop?" (A crop grown to be sold and exported, not for local consumption). Provide the students with a new FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them what kinds of things Epiphanie had to overcome to start and maintain her own business. REPLAY Clip 4 for the class. Direct a class discussion around the question of why Epiphanie was able to organize a successful coffee business (She had prior experience because she and her husband had owned the same type of business before the war.) Even with this advantage, what were the problems that she experienced? (Answers may include: shortage of money, lack of expertise, business being conducted in locales -- such as bars -- not generally frequented by women).

    2. Explain to the class that Rwandan women were given the right to vote in 1961, but it was not until the ratification of the new Constitution in 2003 that women solidified their political power. Provide the students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION: ask them to determine how the 2003 Rwandan Constitution helped women gain seats in Parliament. PLAY Clip 5, "Women in Parliament," for the class. Review the focus question with the students: how did the 2003 Constitution help women gain seats in Parliament? (The Constitution decreed that 30% of the seats in the Rwandan Parliament must be reserved for women. In addition, women can also compete with men for the remaining seats.) Tell the students that this is an example of an affirmative action policy. Ask them to define "affirmative action" and record the definition on Organizer #1 (Measures or programs established to correct the effects of past discrimination in hiring, elected office, etc.) Can the students think of any affirmative action policies in the United States? (Answers will vary). Explain to the students that the first Rwandan election after the Constitution was ratified resulted in women winning an additional 18% of the seats over the 30% guaranteed to them -- giving them a total of 48% of the seats in the Parliament. Rwanda now has the highest percentage of women in the legislature of any country in the world. Ask the students what kinds of benefits for women this representation in government might provide: why is it important for the Rwandan government to have a high representation of women in Parliament? Is this equally true of other countries? (Answers will vary).


    In preparation for the Regents Exam in Global Studies, students will data from a variety of sources (as they will do in the DBQ section of the Global Studies Regents Exam).

    1. Explain to students that "Ladies First" gave them an understanding of the various challenges facing Rwandan society today. As they have seen, Rwanda has gone through many changes recently, in its social, political, and economic arenas. There are additional sources that elaborate on changes taking place in Rwanda. Distribute "Student Organizer #2: Country Research" to each cooperative group of students. Each group should have a computer with access to the Internet. Provide student groups with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to visit the Web sites listed to answer the questions on Organizer #2.

    2. After the groups have finished their analyses, ask each group to report back to the class. There may be variations in the interpretations of the data, and this should precipitate a lively discussion.

    3. Distribute "Student Organizer #3: Modified Thematic Essay" to each student. Go over the directions as a class, and assign the essay for homework.


    Language Arts

    • Have students read and reflect on writings on forgiveness. See, for example, THE SUNFLOWER: ON THE POSSIBILITIES AND LIMITS OF FORGIVENESS by Simon Wiesenthal, a concentration camp survivor who recounts his experience of being asked for forgiveness by a dying Nazi soldier. The second part of the volume is a series of essays by leading intellectuals addressing the concept of forgiveness.

    Social Studies

    • Explore other attempts to deal with the aftermath of mass killings and other social atrocities, such as the Nuremberg trials and South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Investigate how these institutions negotiated and helped define issues such as forgiveness, incrimination, amnesty, and reparations. Research the conventions and other international declarations that resulted from these proceedings.

    • Research the conflict between ethnic groups in the Balkans during the 1990s. Discuss the findings in class and compare and contrast this information with the experiences of Rwandan women.


    • Using the data from "Ladies First," have students prepare charts depicting the devastation of the genocide in Rwanda. (The statistics mentioned in the video: Total population: eight million -- 85% of the population Hutu, 14% Tutsis; 50,000 Hutu and 800,000 Tutsis killed in 1994; 600,000 orphans and 400,000 widows in 1994).


    Encourage students to support the women and children of Rwanda. There are various Web sites (the United Nations, http://www.rwandawomennetwork.org/, http://womenwagingpeace.net/) that have suggestions for involvement.

© 2006 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

close this window
CPB and JPMorganChase logos
Funding for WIDE ANGLE: WINDOW INTO GLOBAL HISTORY is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation.