Everyone has had life and work experiences that we are afraid to share with others. Yet keeping it inside can influence how we feel and impact our behaviors at work and at home. And we may not always fully understand our experiences and our behaviors. This episode is an amazing example of how listening can be healing and transformational even when people experience atrocities that are the toughest a human being can imagine. If listening sparks resilience as it does in this story, then it can spark resilience in all of us, every day, moment by moment.
Liliane Pari Umuhoza is a Rwandan public speaker, human rights advocate, and founder of the “Women Genocide Survivors Retreat” program – a program that acts as a support system for the women survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. She uses listening to create a transformative safe space for survivors to heal and improve life both psychologically and financially. Liliane currently works for Foundation Rwanda as a project officer.
Through her background education in Peace and Conflict studies, work with nonprofit organizations, and life experience of surviving the Genocide against the Tutsi, Liliane uses her awareness to fight against injustice and summon global dialogue and actions against human right abuses. She has spoken at events related to peace-building, human rights and women empowerment at universities, the UN, the Embassy of Rwanda in Washington DC, the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City, Oregon Historical Society Museum, and many others. She is now based in Kigali, Rwanda.
In this episode, Liliane shares how powerful listening can be. It was 14 years after the Genocide when she shared her story for the first time. Her best friend’s listening was the spark for her healing journey. This experience along with listening to stories of women in her community and noticing how this lifted the burden from their faces inspired the program she founded – Women Genocide Survivors Retreat – to support life-transforming experiences through listening to each other’s stories. Liliane shares how she has created the space for magic to be possible facilitating genuine listening in a group who has experienced trauma and how this transforms their lives after, both at home and at work.
Enjoy this conversation with Liliane, as we collectively work to make this world a better and safer place for everyone.
“What makes a space safe enough for people to share is about how we present ourselves in those spaces. Do we really listen without judging? Do we make people safe enough when they are around us? How do we communicate with the people around us? It’s just the simple gestures, but they can be big in someone’s life… and that starts from our homes.” – Liliane Umuhoza
Listen IN Notes:
0:39 – A narrative about the first time Liliane noticed the power of listening: knowing her story and accepting the reality of her experience, the spark of her healing journey
17:51 – How Liliane was inspired to use her experiences to support her community: founding a women’s retreat
19:37 – She talks about her time as an intern at Survivors Fund; listening to the survivors’ stories in their mother language and translating those into English; another moment where she felt the power of listening
23:29 – Liliane shares what the Women Genocide Survivors Retreat program is all about
26:20 – What makes listening and sharing our stories powerful in her perspective
29:41 – Liliane shares what they do before and during the retreat in order to create a safe space; her experience with NGOs and its relation to the program
32:05 – She remembers the situation of a survivor who is HIV positive from the genocide and the power the retreat had to transform her life
34:44 – How she created a space of psychological safety for this to happen with a large group of women; The things to say so that participants are engaged and co-create their experience
38:52 – How Liliane observes the weight being lifted from the survivors’ shoulders; A participant’s story in relation to the program’s impact on a survivor’s life
46:03 – She talks about how she’s thinking further about listening and it’s power; How her life changed and how she wants to make sure people receive the same support around the world
50:03 – Liliane shares her vision to impact schools
51:43 – Liliane reflects on how the power of listening helped her to align her actions with who she really is and how we can help other people do the same.
“My generation grew up in a very messed-up environment where everybody was in a survival mode – figuring out where to start, but we survived.” – Liliane Pari Umuhoza
“I’ve been using the power of listening to also help people heal.” – Liliane Pari Umuhoza
“What shame does to a human being is that it makes you feel like you’re not worthy, that you don’t matter; but when you share your story and you see that people are listening to you, it brings back that sense of worthiness, brings back the confidence, the love for yourself. It helps people to connect as human beings and brings back the sense of humanity in people.” – Liliane Pari Umuhoza
“I think what’s wrong with some organizations is that we work for the people and not with the people.” – Liliane Pari Umuhoza
“Because people shared their stories, people felt seen and valued.” – Liliane Umuhoza
“There’s a lot of people nowadays that their actions are not really who they are… If we don’t give people the space to tell us what exactly is going on with their lives, we’re going to put them in a box of their actions, and that’s not who they really are. That’s not gonna help them. It’s gonna make the situation even worse. So, if we could create those safe spaces for people to share, there’s a lot of things that can be changed.” – Liliane Umuhoza
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