Rwandans line up to take part in a women-only vote for the National Women's Council in Kigali, July 12, 2004.
Finbarr O'Reilly / Courtesy Reuters

Twenty years ago, in 100 days of slaughter between April and July 1994, an estimated one million Rwandan men, women, and children were killed by their fellow citizens. It was one of the worst genocides in history, and its effects still ripple through Rwanda, central and eastern Africa, and the world at large.

It would be obscene to say that such a catastrophe has had even the thinnest silver lining. But it did create a natural -- or unnatural -- experiment, as the country’s social, economic, and political institutions were wiped out by the genocide. And in important respects, the reconstructed Rwanda that emerged over the next two decades is a dramatically different country.

One major improvement has come in the leadership of Rwandan women, who have made history with their newly vital role in politics and civil society. No longer confined to positions of influence in the home, they have

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  • SWANEE HUNT is Eleanor Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and Chair of the Institute for Inclusive Security.
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