For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
July 14, 2005
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Fawe Girls' School in Rwanda
5:28 P.M. (Local)
MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mrs. Kagame, for welcoming me to Rwanda. I'm honored to be in your country.
Thanks to Henderson Patrick, the Charge d'Affaires who is here with us; thank you very much for joining us from the U.S. Embassy. And Ambassador Randall Tobias, who coordinates the United States government's global efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. Thank you so much for being here.
I also want to acknowledge Rick and Kay Warren. Rick and Kay are two of the many U.S. citizens who work with Africans to provide treatment and services to men and women living with HIV/AIDS, and to children orphaned by AIDS.
Through President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the American people are partnering with organizations and governments around the world - including here in Rwanda - to bring hope to people living with HIV and AIDS. I visited one of these sites earlier - a site run by World Relief - and I was inspired by the life-affirming work being done there.
Thanks also especially to our host, Odette Mutanguha - (laughter) - can I say it - Mutanguha, the coordinator of FAWE in Rwanda, and to Joseph Rwagatare, the director of FAWE Girls' School. Thank you so much. And thank you to all of the students for welcoming me to the FAWE Girls' School. I'm so pleased to meet each one of you.
Today you have great hopes for the future. You have dreams of becoming doctors and engineers and teachers and serving in government. And you have strong role models at the FAWE School and throughout your country.
Today I've learned a great deal about Rwanda and about the genocide that occurred just over ten years ago. Some would call the tragedy in Rwanda unspeakable. But that is precisely the problem. Too few people around the world spoke out about what was happening here. Too few people recognized the scale of suffering.
Rwandans have done extraordinary work recovering from that devastation. Now this is a country of growing opportunity, with confidence in the future. The people of the United States share your confidence in Africa's future.
Earlier today I met with women who serve in Rwanda's parliament. Rwanda has a higher proportion of female legislators than any other country in the world. Nearly half of the members of Rwanda's parliament are women - women who are the ones making laws and developing policies for their nation.
Women also hold ten ministerial posts in the government. Many of the women who serve today survived the genocide. Many of their family members did not. They've had to endure immense pain and summon the courage to move forward. They've become leaders in every field, setting a new standard for women's participation in society -- not just here, but across the continent and around the world.
At the FAWE School, girls are trained to be the leaders of tomorrow. Girls are educated in a safe and secure and supportive environment. And living here means that girls can concentrate on just being students. Here, girls are free to concentrate on their studies. Their parents and their teachers know that educated women will make a difference in society, and improve the life for all of Rwanda's families.
Every person has value and every person deserves the opportunity to contribute to their own society. The American people are committed to working with the people of Rwanda to advance education, especially for girls. President Bush's African Education Initiative provides students with school supplies, scholarships, and books. Over four years, the new funding will help train 500,000 school teachers and administrators in Africa. And it will make available 300,000 scholarships for African girls to attend school through the Ambassador's Girls Scholarship Program.
The Ambassador's Girls Scholarship Program currently pays school fees for 1,500 girls in 48 schools in Rwanda. Girls who receive the scholarship are encouraged to study math and science, and to train for any profession they set their minds to. Twenty-nine girls here at this school receive the scholarships.
Linda lost her father in the 1994 genocide. Her mother had to take care of Linda, her brother and sister, and cousins who were orphaned. The scholarship makes it possible for Linda to pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.
Like many students, Oliver once had trouble concentrating in school because she was worried that she would be taken out of class for failure to pay her school fees. With her scholarship, Oliver doesn't worry anymore. She wants to continue with her education until she receives a master's degree in computer science.
FAWE has given Christine an opportunity to talk about her personal experiences and difficulties. She receives support here, and she's gained confidence. Christine said, "I would like to advise all girls -- don't be scared of boys. Girls and boys have equal rights."
FAWE students dream of the future. Regine wants to be a pilot because, she said, there aren't any women pilots in Rwanda.
Many of the girls here have a desire to help other people. They want to make sure that children who are orphaned have the opportunity to get a good education and look forward to a bright future.
Schools and students also need books. And as the Honorary Ambassador for the United Nations Decade of Literacy, I believe deeply in the importance of reading. And today I'm pleased to announce a donation of 20,000 books for schools in Rwanda. You can see a selection of them around here. (Applause.) The books include fiction and text books, as well as English-French dictionaries. And books will be donated to every school that participates in the Ambassador's Girls Scholarship Program.
The United States is a partner in Rwandan education because we're confident about Rwanda's future. Our confidence grows with every girl and boy who graduates from school, prepared to lead Rwanda in peace.
Thank you for welcoming me here. Thank you for sharing your stories with me. And best wishes to all the girls and all the students at the FAWE School. Thank you all very, very much. (Applause.)
END 5:36 P.M. (Local)