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Rwanda: You Go, Girls! by Margaret Fay
Overview Prodecures for Teachers Organizers for Students
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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).


    Breaking New Ground
    Photo of a woman in Rwanda.
  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. 70% Female
    Photo of women in the Rwandan Legislature.
    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. Suffering and Recovery
    Photo of a person praying.
    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. Small Business
    Photo of a farm in Rwanda.
    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. Women in Parliament
    Photo of a Rwandan woman in the national legislature.
    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 evaluate 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.

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