Still in her early twenties, Dydine Umunyana is an Ambassador for Aegis Trust, a filmmaker, an NGO-founder, and a committed advocate for at-risk women. Underpinning these activities is Dydine’s devotion to bringing peace to her community and helping to build a Rwanda based on tolerance and equality.
Dydine’s family fled their home in Kigali in 1991 when she was just a child amid the mounting hostilities facing Tutsis. They went first to her mother’s family in the east of the country, while her father left to join the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Army. Soon, her mother joined him, leaving Dydine and her newborn brother with her extended family.
When the genocide began in April 1994, Dydine and her family sought protection from a Hutu in-law, but they were told that no Tutsi god could save them, throwing them back into the streets. They fled to a refugee camp in Uganda, and only after the genocide was Dydine reunited with both of her parents.
Though the genocide was over, its toll lingered. They learned six of her mother’s siblings had been killed. Dydine’s father lost more than thirteen members of his family. The horrors of the conflict never left her father, who suffered from extreme post-traumatic stress. Due to his ongoing struggle with the trauma, Dydine has not seen her father since then. The lack of psychological and financial aid available to survivors created serious challenges for her family.
Watching her mother struggle to raise four children and knowing the distinct violence perpetrated against women during the genocide led Dydine to embrace peace advocacy and women’s rights. In 2009, she was selected to participate in an Aegis Trust peace-building education program at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. She emerged from that experience committed to influencing other youths to strengthen their lives in Rwanda.
One result of that conviction has been the Umbrella Cinema Promoters, a non-profit Dydine founded in 2012. The organization provides Rwandan women with education on filmmaking and storytelling to empower them to make their voices heard. Dydine herself has training with several acclaimed documentarians. In 2012, she created a short film with film students at USC titled “Goes Around, Comes Around,” which looked at the role of men manipulating young women through gifts and money and its influence on the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Since April 2013, Dydine has been a Youth Peace Ambassador for Aegis Trust in Rwanda. She is drawn to the public education and engagement program because it promises to pierce through the wall of silence still pervades much of Rwandan society regarding the genocide. Particularly among the younger generation that makes up so much of Rwanda’s population, a lack of dialogue too often prevents youth from sharing their stories and understanding their shared histories. Through her work with Aegis, Dydine hopes to inspire more openness in order to build a lasting peace through a more inclusive society.
Become a Serve 2 Unite Supporter!
Because a white supremacist murdered 6 people at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin on August 5th, 2012, children of all ethnicities, from the inner city to the suburbs, are coming together to cherish each other as human beings and to assume the identity of peacemakers in their schools and communities. This is how we respond to the worst race-based hate crime in the United States since 4 little girls were murdered in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
We know you value this important work, and we count on you to help us move into year two of this amazing program. In peace, we Thank You.