Holocaust Survivor Margit Meissner

Holocaust Survivor Margit Meissner Journeys to Rwanda with Women for Women International to Meet Sister Genocide Survivors

90-year-old traveling with Women for Women International will visit Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre.

June 11, 2012, Washington D.C. - Women for Women International (WfWI) announced today one of its supporters, 90-year-old Holocaust survivor Margit Meissner, will travel to Rwanda June 24th – 30th, to meet two women survivors of the 1994 genocide, one whom she has sponsored through WfWI’s programs and the other whom she will sponsor in the upcoming year.

In making this announcement, Women for Women International President and COO Andrée Simon said, “We are so honored by Margit’s support over the years and thrilled she will be able to meet her ‘sisters’ in Rwanda. As a Holocaust survivor and someone who is passionate about reconciliation, Margit’s experiences give her a unique connection to the women we serve in Rwanda who are also survivors of war. Her grace, courage, and commitment to others are an example for us all.”

Margit, who chronicled her experiences in her memoir, Margit’s Story, was born into the Jewish upper class in pre-World War II Austria. She fled Nazi rule to the United States, and after marrying a G.I., she went with him to the Nuremberg war crimes trials where she worked to reeducate Hitler Youth. Now living in Maryland, Margit volunteers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum where she serves as a tour guide in the exhibits. In embarking on this week-long trip accompanied by her niece, Margit said, “It is important to not forget, to not become indifferent to the suffering of others. I have discarded the traditional excuse that I am just one person, there is nothing I can do. I think what every one of us does matters. Women for Women International helps one woman touch the life of another, and shows we all can do something that matters to someone else.”

Since 1997, Women for Women International has helped more than 41,000 Rwandan women in communities throughout all of the country’s provinces. Women for Women International’s year-long program in Rwanda includes business and vocational skills training, rights awareness, health education, direct aid, and emotional support. At the end of the program, women become more connected to their communities and are able to sustain an income, stand up for their rights, and lead healthier lives.

During her week-long tour, Margit will be meeting Olive Mukamana, a woman whom she sponsored through Women for Women International in 2010, and Francine Kayitesi, a woman whom she will be sponsoring in the upcoming year. Margit’s support has enabled her “sister” Olive to afford basic necessities such as food and shelter, cover school fees, and invest in income-generating activities. “I am truly looking forward to meeting Olive Mukamana and Francine Kayitesi, my ‘sisters,’” said Margit. “We share being survivors of war and conflict. Knowing how Olive has been able to move past the genocide and has built a better life for herself and her children through the help of Women for Women International, and knowing that Francine will have the opportunity to do the same, is a true gift.”

Margit and other members of Women for Women International will also be visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, which offered a place for the bereaved to bury their families and friends. Over 250,000 victims of the genocide are now buried at the site, which also houses a children’s memorial and an exhibit on the history of genocidal violence around the world. “Looking back on my own experiences and seeing how the horrors of war were continued in Rwanda will be very difficult for me,” said Margit. “But I am encouraged by seeing how Olive, Francine, and other women like them are moving forward. I am grateful that I can play a small part in restoring their hope for a better future.”.

About Women for Women International

Since 1993, Women for Women International (WfWI) has worked to provide women survivors of war, civil strife, and other conflicts with resources to move from crisis and poverty into stability and self-sufficiency. WfWI delivers these resources through a tiered, year-long program that begins with direct financial aid and emotional support. Participants also learn about their legal rights; receive life-skills training such as health awareness, numeracy, budgeting and saving, decision-making and negotiation, and civic participation; learn business and vocational skills; and gain access to income-generating activities where they can apply those skills and begin moving towards economic stability. Along with helping more than 398,000 women in the past 20 years to rebuild their own lives and those of their families and communities after war, WfWI uses its voice to call global attention to the unique role that women play in advancing peace throughout society. WfWI works in Afghanistan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Sudan.

For more information, please contact Amber Khan, Senior Director of Communications at Women for Women International, at amber.khan@womenforwomen.org or (202) 521-9607.