In 1994, Iphigenia Mukantabana’s husband and five of her children were brutally murdered by her Hutu neighbors. Now, as a part of a long process of reconciliation in Rwanda, Mukantabana regularly shares meals with her family’s killer and his wife. Through a traditional justice process, Jean-Bosco Bizimana, who spent seven years in prison, admitted publicly to his village elders that he murdered Mukantabana’s husband and asked for forgiveness. “I am a Christian,” Mukantabana told CNN, “and I pray a lot.” It was her faith that opened her to reconciliation with Bizimana and his wife, Epiphania Mukanyndwi.
Both women are now members of the Path to Peace Project, sponsored by UNIFEM, the U.N. women’s fund, in partnership with the retail giant Macy’s. Introduced in 2005, the Path to Peace Project sponsors “peace baskets” made by thousands of weaving groups that consist of Hutu and Tutsi women. The baskets have generated between $300,000 and $400,000 annually, providing the women with a regular salary.
“We knew how to weave baskets,” Mukantabana explained to CNN. “It helped unite Rwandans in this area because they accepted me as the master weaver, and I could not say, ‘I am not taking your basket’ or ‘I am not helping you because you did something bad to me.’” Today, Rwanda has one of the lowest crime and HIV/AIDS rates in Africa and has the highest percentage of women in parliament of any country in the world, according to the United Nations.