Stories of Meticulous Balancing

Father and daughters: John Wycliffe Kwikiriza with Sandra Blessing Kwikiriza and Anais Wibabara

In the USA, the proportion of dual earner married couples more than doubled between 1960 and 2000, increasing from 25% to 60% (Pew Research Center, 2015). Since 2000, over 85% of Rwanda, Africa’s women have joined the workforce. With these changes, the role of father, husband, and son has shifted, sometimes dramatically. In most families, a couple simply raises their family as best as they can, making sure that home is a haven for love, respect, and instilling all with a sense that anyone can pursue their dreams and, with hard work and thoughtfulness, turn them into reality.

Chantal Munanayire, PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® facilitator Rwanda, met her husband, John Wycliffe Kwikiriza, before the genocide. They were young and in love. Wycliffe truly was a hero to Chantal. He had joined fellow countrymen to liberate the motherland and allow the return of millions of Rwandan refugees. During the 1994 genocide, Wycliffe held the frontlines of Kigali City along with current president, Paul Kagame, while Chantal nursed the wounded. Soon after the genocide of over 800,000 and the war that followed, Chantal and Wycliffe were reunited and married. Like so many in Rwanda, Chantal and Wycliffe had lost many family members in the terrible days of genocide. They vowed to rebuild their family, starting their own almost immediately.

Soon after the wedding, Chantal and Wycliffe migrated to Canada with their children. It was time to make a new start, to rebuild. Just two months into their migrant life, Wycliffe was called to duty with the United Nations Peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, leaving Chantal to fight it out in a foreign land. With Wycliffe often in some far-away country, working for peace, Chantal found work with a Jewish genocide survivor and learned the real estate business. Eventually, Chantal and Wycliffe moved their family back to Africa, first to Ghana, and in 2007, decided it was time to return home to Rwanda and to catch up with the cultural aspects of life, especially for the children.

With her husband far away, Chantal raised their children in Rwanda and began to contribute to its economy. A city on the rise meant increased traffic always climbing hills that stretched across the country. Kigali City was bustling but it did not have the capacity to repair automobiles quickly. To fix this problem, Chantal traveled to Europe to buy the best paint and body work system available and opened her own auto repair garage, soon becoming president of the Automobile Garage Owners Association. It was in this capacity that Chantal landed in PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® as a student. True to her nature, Chantal applied for the Rwanda facilitator role the next year. Wycliffe supported Chantal wholeheartedly. He was most happy after Chantal, armed with new business skills, started keeping her business books and bank account separate from his. 

Of her success as a business woman, facilitator and mentor to others, Wycliffe told IEEW, “Supporting her is a natural thing to do. We vowed to help and support each other at all times. Chantal’s work in PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® contributes to the improvement of families’ lives and livelihoods and liberates many a woman, which, in a way, is a continuation of the work I [began] 27 years ago [as a UN Peacekeeping Forces soldier and staffer]. Although at times the work takes her away from home, just like mine takes me away most of the time, we were blessed with autonomous children who have grown up into very reliable adults who look out for each other all the time. Mine has mostly been online parenting and sporadically physically present. Despite the enormous challenges that come with distance parenting, it doesn’t stop me from engaging them in discussions of values of hard work, discipline, respect for self and for others, especially our elders. Career and parenting requires very meticulous balancing.” 

21 year old Sandra Blessing Kwikiriza, Wycliffe’s youngest reflects, “Our Dad is really great at what he does. He has taught us the value of hard work and leadership. I appreciate all the work he has put into raising us and the many sacrifices he has made on the way. He taught us to think before we act and to always look at the consequences of our actions. He helped introduce us to other cultures  and broaden our worldview, for that I am very thankful for. Exposing us to these things helped shape our growth and made us curious to learn more about how things work.”

It takes all of us. The meticulous balancing act of nurturing children while building a just society in which we all feel equal, requires fathers, brothers, and sons to truly believe that women do hold up half the sky. Wycliffe is not alone in Rwanda. PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® entrepreneurs most often have the support of the men around them. Winnie Atakunda, a PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS® alumna and the current AAPTBR (alumnae association) secretary, is owner of a café, Shades Corner. Winnie had to overcome the customary idea of “women being considered as people that always have to depend on their husbands for financial support.” Winnie’s husband, Steven Kayonga, says “First and foremost, it is a husband’s obligation to support and protect his wife. This gives her confidence and I see her as equal and as a colleague, not subordinate at all. This confidence allowed Winnie to “release herself from the negative thinking and [she] used it as a stepping stone to success.” 

As for his children, Steven instills in his offspring, “both boys and girls are equal, they all need support, love. This gives – especially daughters – confidence and high self-esteem. Teach boys to respect everybody and accept women’s uniqueness, and treat them as equals.” Of the meticulous balance, he adds, “Raising kids is one of the toughest and most fulfilling tasks in this era. It does not matter what the sex of the child and it is a role played by both parents. One of the responsibilities is to nurture them, so that they grow up to become people who are strong and able to support themselves. The most important aspect here is balancing career requirements to avail time for my daughters to avoid creating a vacuum or abandon the entire role of raising them. I balance my time wisely and leave work at work. Only when it is very important do I take work home, but even then I explain to them why I have not availed time for them.”

John Wycliffe Kwikiriza surrounded by the beautiful and brilliant women in his life. From left: spouse Chantal Munanayire, niece Keza Melissa, daughter Anais Wibabara, daughter Sandra B. Kwikiriza, niece Blessed Agasha, daughter Elisa Umuhoza, niece Kim, Kimberly Karera, sister Stella Umutoni, sister Hope Umunyana, the two little girls are Stella’s daughters Zaza Sangudi and Nunu Sangudi