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MRG’s long standing friend and ally, Epiphanie Kanziza appointed as Senator in Rwanda

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MRG is delighted to congratulate our longstanding friend and ally, Epiphanie Kanziza on her appointment as a Senator in Rwanda.

Epiphanie has been a strong supporter of her country’s ‘historically marginalized communities’ and marginalized women, has stood up for human rights and challenged discrimination in Rwanda. Her appointment is well deserved, and we are sure she will use the opportunity to help ensure that ‘no one is left behind’ in Rwanda’s social and economic progress.

Epiphanie hails from a community which is most often referred to in Rwanda as ‘historically marginalised’ because the Government of Rwanda believes that referring to different ethnicities is divisive. Nonetheless people in these communities still face landlessness, inadequate access to services and high levels of poverty, all of which have been worsened by Covid-19. The ancestors of these communities traditionally hunted and gathered within Rwanda’s ancient forests but were evicted en masse when game reserves were established. Rarely owning land, they often work as day labourers for low wages. With their lifestyles disrupted, they were pushed to a precarious existence as daily wage labourers. While many survived on making traditional pottery, this activity has also become precarious due to the switch to plastic, metal products and inability to access areas that provided raw materials. Rwanda’s ‘We are all Rwandans’ policy is welcome in managing social tension after the tragic genocide, but it also has the impact of deterring positive measures to lift marginalised communities out of poverty.

Epiphanie is among the first handful of graduates from Rwanda’s ‘historically marginalised’ communities. In struggling to ensure adequate attention to the plight of these communities and of women in particular, she took the bold decision to establish her own NGO, centred on ensuring women’s needs were reflected in programmes and advocacy (Women’s Organisation for Promoting Unity, WOPU).

Since 2012-13, she has built the organisation’s track record and profile with support from MRG. As Legal Coordinator of WOPU, Epiphanie has used her platform to speak at regional events, the UN in Geneva and the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.  She is recognised for her expertise and contribution within and outside of Rwanda.

’Epiphanie’s appointment is a significant step forward for Rwanda, which has not had significant minority representation in its Senate’, said Claire Thomas, MRG’s Deputy Director. ‘The appointment of a person who has been constructively critical of the Rwandan authorities shows the country’s increasing maturity and acceptance of diversity and intersectional marginalisation’.

MRG wishes Epiphanie well in her role and looks forward to the impact that she will make on policies that  are inclusive and effective for all Rwandans.

Notes to editors

  • Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is the leading international human rights organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples. We work with more than 150 partners in over 50 countries.
  • Women’s Organisation for Promoting Unity (WOPU) has the mission to improve the perception of poor women by empowering them and to promote the unity of Rwandans.

Interview opportunities:

  • Claire Thomas, MRG’s Deputy Director / E: claire.thomas@mrgmail.org
  • Agnes Kabajuni, MRG Director of MRG Africa
  • Epiphanie Kanziza

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Photos: Courtesy of Epiphanie Kanziza

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Filed Under: Africa, Rwanda, Women
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