Inspiring Thursday: Alice Urusaro Karekezi

Alice Urusaro Karekezi, an activist and lecturer with a background in law, has a long history of defending women’s rights in post-conflict settings. Karekezi has done most of her work in Kigali, Rwanda. With 20 years of experience fighting for women’s rights and gender-based violence in post-conflict settings, and regional peace and security. Karekezi is a fierce advocate for change and respect for women’s human rights. She was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and left in 1991 to study and work in Europe, namely in France and Belgium. She has completed her PhD at the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

In 1994, after the Rwandan genocide, Alice Urusaro Karekezi fought to ensure sexual violence was punished as a war crime. As she affirmed in an interview for the National Geographic magazine, she and many others left well-paying jobs abroad to return to their homeland. “We came here to build (Kigali),” said Karekezi. In 1999 she became the co-founder of the Centre for Conflict Management.

As a gender and security expert, Karekezi’s career includes legal work in law firms, teaching as a law professor in Rwanda and promoting a gender mainstreaming approach within the Rwandan Security Forces. In addition, she was a monitor for the International Tribunal for Rwanda and a Programme Officer for Justice, Human Rights and Governance at the University of Rwanda. She also oversaw the analysis of the Rwandan Government implementation plan of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) completed in February 2015. Another remarkable aspect of her work includes expert trainings focusing on the protection of women’s rights against sexual and gender-based violence: for example, in the UN Women funded project executed by Legal Aid Forum on Protection of Women Rights through the Management of Gender Based Crimes, comprising Judicial Officers; Attorneys, Prosecutors and Rights Organizations (2013).

Between April and July 1994, Rwanda was torn apart by a brutal genocide where the Hutu extremists carried out a large-scale attack targeting the Tutsi, where sexual violence was an egregious and widespread practice. As a human rights lawyer Karekezi actively fought for the punishment of rape as a war crime.

Her recent publications include the “African Solutions for Peace and Security” “Gacaca in Post Genocide Rwanda: Search for Justice and Reconciliation” (2011); “Localizing Justice: Gacaca Courts in Post-Genocide Rwanda in My Neighbour, My Enemy: Justice and Community in the Aftermath of Mass Atrocity” (2004)

She is currently working on the following papers: “Security Sector Reform and Gender mainstreaming in the Rwanda Police” and “Does Economic Empowerment Cure Intimate Partner Violence? Responses from Rwanda Women Basket Weavers”

Alice Karekezi is a good example of the impact of feminist activism and how it can shift mentalities and thus promoting change at a regional and international level. Alice Urusaro Karekezi is truly an inspiration!

Written by Mariana Cunha, WAVE Intern

“Women: A Century of Change.”: “How women are stepping up to Remake Rwanda”
UN Women
University of Rwanda