Grace and I connected on LinkedIn because I was inspired by a summary of her story that was shared. I strongly believe that someone will find her detailed story equally inspiring. Here is our interview about her life story:
Hello! Who are we honoured to have today?
Hello! My name is Umuhire Grace Ingabire. I am a Data Quality Analyst for a developmental research company in Rwanda, where we collect data for developmental reasons. For example; if one wants to find out how childhood malnutrition is on the East African landscape, our job is to collect data related to such a topic such as households’ children’s age, meal descriptions, malnutrition indicators like weight and height as per age, we then perform preliminary analysis, and hand over the data to clients who then carry out developmental interventions or influence policy making decisions. My specific role is assurance of the quality of the data that we give to our clients.
What’s your life journey been like so far?
It has been challenging, but I have been victorious throughout. Some life experiences almost broke me down, but I always rose triumphant. I have risen above childhood molestation, rape, abandonment, neglect and mental abuse, and have emerged a qualified statistician and poetess.
I grew up in an abusive home! My father died of cancer when I was 5 years of age and my mother remarried when I was around 9 years old. Unfortunately, my step-father only wanted my mother, not the two children as baggage that she was bringing from her previous marriage! So he refused to officially marry her and build her up. Sadly, these are things we were watching and understanding because we were old enough!
Then there was the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994. We left Rwanda as a family and fled to the DR Congo. That’s where my step-father started sexually molesting me. All this started when I was 9 years old and it went on until I was 17 years old! During that time, we relocated twice; to Kenya and South Africa. We lived in Kenya for 3 years and spent most of our lives in South Africa. So at 17, in South Africa, I ran away from home with an intention of committing suicide by drowning in the ocean. I didn’t manage to do that! I was rescued by social workers who took me back home. My mother continued to defend my step-father, and until now he hasn’t paid for what he did. Yes he paid for it in terms of universal comic order, but never in terms of my mother letting him know that what he did to me was wrong! That broke me! It made me feel worthless – almost as if I meant nothing on the face of the earth. If my own mother couldn’t defend me, then what was I worth, really? I continued living with them until I landed my first job when we relocated to Pretoria from Durban. I then moved out of home; a very angry young woman!
While my family was going through all these relocations, my schooling suffered quite a lot! Some times I would have to repeat a grade! For example, when we went into the refugee camp in DRC, there was no schooling facility. There was only a place where children could gather and get some Language and Arithmetic lessons, just to be able to survive around in the camp. We lived there for almost a year before relocating to Kenya. In Nairobi, our parents were not able to get us into good schools. We sat at home until refugees came together and built a school called Kabiliya – up in a place formerly called Liruta. I studied there until I finished my primary school and started high school. Just when I was about to finish high school, we left Kenya and moved to South Africa. Although I had only one year remaining for me to finish high school, coming from a French system forced my new school in South Africa to make me repeat a grade! I was put back into grade 10 and matriculated after 2 years.
After my matric, my parents tried to leave Africa and relocate to Canada. But we didn’t manage to do that, we actually ended up getting locked up because of some problems. We left and only stopped in Ethiopia, got locked up in Zimbabwe and had to go back to South Africa. We only changed location from Durban to Pretoria. This is when I fought hard and was able to do my university degree. This is how turbulent my academic journey was!
I became pregnant when I as 32 years of age and had my daughter. This was a very good chance for me to show my mother how she should have loved me. She realised what she had done, regretted it, and asked for forgiveness. My daughter’s father has recently committed suicide as a result of mental health issues which had at the end driven him to alcoholism.
I returned to Rwanda two years ago, as a qualified data analyst, and started a new life, with my current job. Unfortunately, my company has just let me know that they will not be renewing my contract after this year because of the current global pandemic. Just when I thought I was starting from zero and moving forward, there came that news! I know my hardships haven’t ended yet but I am very positive about a new dawn that awaits me. I am proud of all my tough times and my good times. I am writing a book about my life story, so people can pick more details from there one day.
What have you found inspiring along this journey?
Forgiveness is what has inspired me the most. I did not feel at peace and triumphant until I made the decision to forgive my step-father for the way he abused my mother and how he molested me.
What do you enjoy doing outside work?
I love spending time with my children and having family time and I also enjoy performing poetry. I perform poetry to alleviate the pain that I have endured. I also write music when time allows.
Any achievements & awards?
Yes indeed. I have received awards for my poetry and linguistics, all the way from high school to university, in French and English, and these were based entirely on academic performance.
I wrote a poem about refugee life, for which I was given an award, but I am yet to receive it.
I also proudly hold certificates in Qi Gong.
What’s your favourite Quote?
“You are your best thing” – Toni Morrisson Beloved
Please leave us with a word of encouragement
Love yourself, and when you start to feel arrogant remind yourself that you aught to be self-ful to serve others, and at that moment do love yourself some more. Throughout life, remember it is hardly ever about you, so humble a little.
Thank you Grace for sharing with us and showing us that nothing is beyond our capacity. May God open new doors for you regarding your career.