Photography by Corey MacLean
Occupation: Deputy Director of Aegis Trust Rwandan Office
So nice to meet you Solange! Can you tell us about yourself?
Born in 1979, my parents separated when I was 3 years and was raised by my mother. At the age of 12 both of my parents died. With few options, I decided to return to Rwanda to seek out my father’s family. I was in the eastern part of Rwanda with my step-mother’s family when the Genocide broke out in Rwanda. Fortunately, this part proved relatively safe and I was not affected by the Genocide. In twenty years since the Genocide, I have become a champion for at-risk communities, particularly the children. My dream is to have a foundation that helps orphans and disadvantaged children. I started a nursery and a primary school which is run by my husband; our vision is to enable disadvantaged children to have access to quality education.
I have an MBA in finance from Maastricht School of Management, I have extensive experience in management and strategic development, as well as having deep commitment to genocide prevention and overcoming Rwanda’s turbulent history. Today, I live in Kigali with my 3 daughters and my husband.
What is your definition of ‘beautiful’?
To me, someone beautiful is a person who is not afraid of being herself; someone that can bring a smile to someone’s face just by being herself; someone passionate about life, driven and with goals. One who speaks with great sense of absolute understanding; one who is opinionated but not arrogant; One who’s humble and ready to make people around her smile, not by flirting. Respectful, wise, and a woman who knows what she wants, sets certain goals for herself and goes after accomplishing them; A woman who’s expressive, not intimidated but knows her limits.
In your community what does the ideal woman look like? What is considered physically beautiful?
In my community, the ideal woman is a woman who loves and cares for her family. A tall, dark skinned woman with a beautiful smile, big eyes and big or large bums or butts is considered to be physically beautiful.
When do you feel most beautiful?
I feel most beautiful when I am happy and smart.
On average how much do you spend each month on cosmetic items such as make-up, hair cuts/colouring, waxing, clothing, nails, tanning, creams etc.
Have you ever struggled with confidence, body image or insecurities in your life? If yes, please share your story. If you have any advice for people going through the same thing please feel free to share your thoughts here.
Yes, I did: when I was young people loved me so much- saying that I am a beautiful girl. My mom didn’t like it because she thought I would spend my time thinking about what people told me and not concentrate on my studies. She always said to me that people lie to me, that they say I am beautiful when I am really ugly. “Look at your eyes, they are very small and ugly.” She made sure and told me that every part of my body was ugly. I then started to hate myself and felt small, hence losing confidence in myself. I remember I used to not wear pants, and the only type of clothes I had were long and big size dresses and skirts. At age 29, I started seeing myself differently. I thought I should be myself and came to realize my mom didn’t hate, she just used the wrong approach to talk to me.
My message to other women:
Parents should be very careful of what they tell their kids and those who have gone through the same thing, please believe in yourselves. Be who you are and enjoy who you are.