Honorable Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs for the Republic of Rwanda, Jeanne d’Arc De Bonheur
Ladies and Gentlemen; all protocols observed –
Good morning. Mwaramutse.
I am here today to honor the 50 graduates of the Indego Africa program that the U.S. Embassy had the privilege to support through our Julia Taft Fund. This program aimed to help female refugees improve their economic potential by honing their craft and small business skills. Not only have they done so, but they also came together to form a cooperative to help support each other and more efficiently market their products, both domestically and internationally. The cooperative is called Akeza Karigura, which I am told means, “A beautiful thing is searched for” in Kirundi. I could not think of a better name for this group of artisans as this is exactly why we are here today – to witness the beauty these remarkable women have been able create despite their difficult circumstances.
From what I have seen today, the project has been a great success. I congratulate Country Director Rosine and Indego Africa. I also want to take a moment to recognize the great work UNHCR, MIDIMAR, and their partners do to support the everyday needs of refugees. Without your dedication, we would not be here celebrating this graduation.
The United States has demonstrated leadership in supporting refugees around the world and, specifically here in Rwanda. During the last year alone, the U.S. Government contributed nearly $33 million, equivalent to approximately 27 billion Rwandan francs, through our funding to UNHCR as well as direct assistance to organizations such as the American Refugee Committee, Save the Children, and Handicap International. This amount represents more than half of all donor funding for refugees in Rwanda. We also gave an additional $11 million dollars to the World Food Program through USAID’s Food For Peace program.
The U.S. Government is committed to supporting refugees around the world because we believe that everyone deserves to live in safety and dignity. We also firmly believe that humanitarian assistance alone is not enough to ensure a dignified life. While it is important to provide for refugees’ basic needs, it is even more important to ensure that refugees have access to schools, the healthcare system, and opportunities to earn an income.
Despite its relatively small size, Rwanda has shouldered a heavy burden hosting a refugee population that has more than doubled in the last two years. Last year, the Rwandan government made a series of commitments to increase integrated education, invest in livelihoods opportunities, and broaden healthcare access for refugees. We are excited to continue supporting the Rwandan government as it works to increase the socioeconomic integration of refugees.
Now, to the graduates: I hope you feel that you have more skills than you did one year ago, and therefore more potential to continue your income generating businesses. But even more importantly, I hope you have more confidence and faith in your own ability to successfully provide for your families and community no matter the circumstances. I also want to encourage you to share your stories with other refugees. Show them that with some creativity, passion and commitment you can take ownership of your future in pursuit of a better life.