Rwandan writer Scholastique Mukasonga has won the 2021 Simone de Beauvoir Prize for Women’s Freedom.

The prize was established in 2008 to recognize “a person or an association, a work or an action which, everywhere in the world – in all fields, law, work, education, research, literature, daily life, activism – defends and advances women’s freedom.”

Mukasonga is the first African woman to be honored with the prize. Upon receiving the news, she responded “It’s a pleasant surprise that arrives just as I’m in the process of writing my most feminist novel.”

The award ceremony will take place on May 31, 2021, in Paris.

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In addition to authoring three novels, three memoirs, and a collection of short stories, Mukasonga is a licensed social worker. Exiled from Rwanda as a young woman, she completed her education in Burundi where she began working with UNICEF. Mukasonga then settled in France in 1992 where she retook her exams and continued social work. In 1994, she received a letter informing her of the deaths of 37 family members during the Tutsi genocide.

Mukasonga’s novels and memoirs explore themes of homeland, family, exile, and grief. Her novel, Our Lady of the Nile (Notre-Dame du Nil), won the Ahamadou Kourouma Prize and the Renaudot Prize, and was adapted to film in 2020 by Atiq Rahimi.

Congratulations to Scholastique Mukasonga!