The Single Story

When I tell people that I am going into the Peace Corps, the conversation usually goes one of two ways.

Option A

Person: Ohh cool, you are going to the Peace Corps! Do you know where you are going?

Me: Yeah, I am going to be in Rwanda! I am really excited about it.

Person: (Gives a skeptical look) Is it, you know, safe? With what happened and all?

Me: The genocide happened 18 years ago. Yes, the country is safe or else the United States would not send it’s citizens there on behalf of the government.

Option B

Person: Ohh cool, you are going to the Peace Corps! Do you know where you are going?

Me: Yeah, I am going to be in Rwanda! I am really excited about it.

Person: So are you going to meet Don Cheadle?

Me: As in the star of Hotel Rwanda? No, I don’t think I am going to get to meet him…

Now don’t get me wrong, I am happy that people are interested in my Peace Corps journey and this is not meant to be a negative critique on those people. This is merely meant to introduce you all to a different side of Rwanda, as it has more to it than the ’94 genocide. Goodness knows if you had asked me on February 2 (the day before I was invited to serve in Rwanda) how many facts I knew about the country, I could have listed them on one hand (and these mostly came from previous viewings of Hotel Rwanda) so please know this is not meant to be judging or scolding. However, I feel that Rwanda suffers from a single story.

What is the single story you ask? I was exposed to the single story by my Americorps director, Laura in the form of a TED talk (go to ted.com for more information and more talks!). In this TED talk, author Chimamanda Adichie explains the single story. The single story is only knowing one side of a story. Or judging something based off of limited information. This can be descriptive of a people, a place, a history or a story.  An example Chimamanda Adichie gives in her TED talk is the way she was perceived when she went to college in the US after being raised in Nigeria (I believe it was Nigeria, I watched the talk a while ago). Her professor critiqued a story of hers, in which she described her childhood, as not being, “Africa enough”. Her professor wasn’t able to get past the single story he had in his head about what growing up in Africa had to be like.

“The single story creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes are not that they are untrue, it is that they are incomplete”  — Chimamanda Adichie

In Rwanda’s case, the country as a whole suffers from the single story of the 1994 genocide that left as many as 1,000,000 dead in 3 months. However, this is not the complete story of Rwanda. Rwanda is a dynamic country that is rapidly evolving into one of Africa’s strongest nations. Don’t believe me? Please read through some articles I attached. I have some pretty wonderful friends who love to send on stories about Rwanda.

http://www.economist.com/node/21548263  — Economist article about the growth of Businesses in Rwanda (Thanks for sending it on Jason!)

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/03/rwandas-health-care-miracle/  — Speaking about universal health care in Rwanda and how far the health care system has come (This one comes from Hannah!)

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/opinion/stifled-dissent-in-rwanda.html?_r=2&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss — Some not-so-good that is happening in the country.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/06/29/the_missing_50_percent — Speaking about the Parliament in Rwanda and how they were the first country to have a majority women legislature!!! J (Kali sent on this one!)

Also if you interested in watching the TED talk in it’s entirety (and I highly recommend that you do) here is the link : http://blog.ted.com/2009/10/07/the_danger_of_a/

If in your efforts to learn more about Rwanda, you come across a good article or story. Please send it my way!

Love love love,

Taylor

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One thought on “The Single Story

  1. I loved that Ted Talk! When I read single story I was going to send you the link to it, and then I was like oh snap, she’s all over that. Can’t wait to follow your Peace Corps journey!

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