First Female Ambassador from Rwanda to the US Visits Cheyney University

November 18, 2013

Professor Mathilde Mukantabana (left) meets with CU President Dr. Michelle Howard-Vital

Professor Mathilde Mukantabana (left) meets with CU President Dr. Michelle Howard-Vital

Professor Mathilde Mukantabana, the first female ambassador from Rwanda to the United States, learned a great deal about Cheyney University when she visited the institution's suburban campus, which straddles Chester and Delaware Counties, on Friday, November 15. She met with CU's president, Dr. Michelle Howard-Vital, as well as other administration officials, to discuss future collaborations between the University and institutions in Rwanda.  Cheyney University finalized a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) last month with Rwanda’s Institut Polytechnique de Byumba in Rwanda. The MOU provides many opportunities for faculty, staff, and students in both institutions to collaborate with exchanges related to Cheyney’s aquaculture program, run by Dr. Steven Hughes, and activities involving CU's Master in Public Administration Program, run by Rwanda native, Dr. Gedeon Mudacumura.

While on campus, Professor Mukantabana toured CU's Aquaculture Facility and had her questions answered by Dr. Hughes, Cheyney's Director of AREL (Aquaculture Research and Education Laboratory) and Professor of Biology, who is also developing the aquaculture partnership. "The goal is to utilize aquaculture and aquaponics techniques to develop more efficient agricultural production and to increase food security for the Rwandan people," he says.  "This collaboration will also foster the exchange of faculty and students between CU and institutions in Rwanda."

"We are very excited to build a stronger basis of collaboration," Ambassador Mukantabana told an assembly of Cheyney dignitaries.  She acknowledged how far women have come in her country since the genocide of 800,000 people in 1994 and the resultant collapse of its governmental, civic and social infrastructure and since 2002 when her country's constitution was revised to give rights to women. She was appointed to her post in January and, now, the small African country ranks first among all countries of the world in terms of the number of women elected to parliament.  "For me, I see it as a continuation of what Rwanda has been doing-- women have been included as part of a big process. Today, 64% of women are in in Parliament-- more women than ever.  Our leaders are pro-equity and we are experiencing the democratic process."

The ambassador ended her day by traveling to CU's Center City Philadelphia site for an evening reception in her honor, hosted jointly by Cheyney University and the Penn Towne Chapter of the Links, one of the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer service organizations comprised of African American women, which also has collaborative and supportive programs with institutions in Rwanda. They joined forces to raise public awareness of work being done by Ambassador Mukantabana and the Rwanda government in rebuilding the country.  “The Rwandan government has made great strides in rebuilding, thanks to the strength and hard work of Ambassador Mukantabana and so many others,” said Vance.

With some 100 people in attendance, Richard Negrin, Philadelphia Managing Director and Deputy Mayor for Administration & Coordination, presented Professor Mukantabana with a miniature liberty bell and CU Alumnus and five-term City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell read a proclamation from Philadelphia City Council.  As a co-founder and President of Friends of Rwanda Association (F.O.R.A), a non-profit American relief association created in the wake of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda, the Ambassador seeks to expand the circle of friends of Rwanda and support genocide survivors through a variety of initiatives and relief efforts. 

Cheyney University and the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) are cosponsoring the Second International Conference on Democratic Governance in Africa, Asia and the Middle East in June 2014 in Kigali, Rwanda. A Call for Proposals is listed on the University's website at  Cheyney University recently cosponsored the first International Conference on Democratic Governance in Africa, Asia and the Middle East with the RGB.

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