The First Lady, a philanthropic, a devoted wife and a loving mother. Despite the many roles that she dons in everyday life, Jeannette Nyiramongi Kagame identifies herself first and foremost as a woman… a Rwandan woman.
And it is this calling that has motivated her and her compatriots to change the face of Rwanda post one of the most tragic genocides of the 20th century. Her presence was a calm influence on the post-genocide leadership which understood the importance of women and supported active participation of women in all spheres of the nature’s development. Her role helped achieve a breakthrough in women empowerment and Rwanda is now known for being one of the best countries in the World in terms of overall opportunities for women. It also ranks high on the list for women in senior positions of leadership. When asked about the same during an interview, Jeannette Kagame modestly replied,
“…Rwandan women have contributed positively to the healing of society and to nation-building. Women alongside their male colleagues have demonstrated leadership and strength through active participation in key national programs, including Unity and Reconciliation; fostering of orphans of the genocide; the Gacaca courts (Rwanda’s traditional court system that has been modernized and used to simultaneously administer justice and promote reconciliation); as well as the repatriation and reintegration of former government soldiers.”
“Also, there are an increasing number of women holding elected positions in parliament and local government. Their positive contributions to different aspects of society have won them the confidence of Rwandan men and society at large, who now view women as true partners in nation-building.”, she concluded.
Whence other first ladies reserve the highest respect for Guests of state and the like, Jeannette Kagame is known for the elegant demeanour, quick wit and the warm and amiable nature which she accords to even the common folk in Rwanda. This approachable quality has made her the favourite of voters across the nation and an invaluable asset during her husband President Paul Kagame’s election campaigns. She is known as a dear friend to the community, particularly the widows and orphans for whose welfare, she has strived for decades. She was one of the founding members and the foremost advocate for the cause of the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS. Under her leadership, the organization raised awareness regarding HIV across the continent and helped check the epidemic. She is also the President of the Imbuto Foundation, an organization dedicated to nurturing a healthy, educated and prosperous Rwanda. In addition, she is on the board of directors for several organizations that empower the poor, create awareness and promote education and health. These include the Friends of the Global Fund Africa and the Global Coalition of Women against HIV. She has also been involved in a variety of charitable organizations in the country including those benefiting HIV patients, widows, orphans and the underprivileged. She hosted the First Ladies Summit on Children and HIV prevention in Kigali in May 2001
The Journey from Refugee to First Lady
Jeannette Kagame, the First Lady of Rwanda was born as Jeannette Nyiramongi on 10th August, 1962. It was during his years of hardship and exile that President Paul Kagame met Jeannette Nyiramongi. The meeting had been arranged by their relatives. Jeannette Kagame already held great respect for President Paul Kagame as she was familiar with the RPF’s work to topple the treacherous regimes in Africa. The President journeyed to Nairobi in Kenya (where Jeannette Kagame used to live) and persuaded her to travel to Uganda to meet him again. The now President Paul Kagame and First Lady of Rwanda – Jeannette Nyiramongi were married on June 10th, 1989. The First Lady adopted her husband’s sir name and became Jeannette Nyiramongi Kagame, referred commonly as Jeannette Kagame. She returned with her husband President Kagame to Rwanda following the tragic genocide of 1994.The couple share an interest in serving the people and have been happily married and deeply devoted to each other. They have been blessed with four children – Cyomoro Ivan Kagame, Ange Kagame, Ian and Brian.