Felicite Rwemarika called on the IOC to strengthen support for refugees during a speech at today's virtual Session ©IOC

Rwandan International Olympic Committee member Felicite Rwemarika has revealed her own personal experiences as she called for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to strengthen support to refugees and populations affected by displacement.

Rwemarika made an emotional address in which she told the Session how her family had been forced to flee Rwanda to Burundi during the first Tutsi massacre in 1959.

"My family fled when I was only one year old," said Rwemarika.

"As I grew older, I understood that being a refugee was not a good thing and that there were a lot of rights we did not have.

"We lived under pressure and constant reminders to go back to our country.

"We grew up with an inferiority complex that led us to change our names to fit in with the communities where we lived."

Rwemarika lived in Congo and then in Uganda working as a nurse. 

Felicite Rwemarika said the Refugee Olympic Team helped give hope to displaced young people ©Getty Images
Felicite Rwemarika said the Refugee Olympic Team helped give hope to displaced young people ©Getty Images

She was not able to return to her homeland until 1994 but insisted that sport had given her "a way to connect, to belong, to stay healthy and strong, both physically and mentally."

Rwemarika, who joined the IOC in 2018, became a Board member for the Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF) which she said "gives hope to all displaced young people" with a target of ensuring one million forcibly displaced young people have access to a safe place for sport by 2024 and providing ongoing support to refugee athletes.

She echoed calls made earlier in the week for a Refugee Team at the 2026 Youth Olympic Games in Dakar.

"Through the Refugee Olympic Team the foundation gives hope to all displaced young people that they too can achieve their life’s ambitions," Rwemarika said.

"I am reminded of my childhood dream that even as a refugee I could have a voice and pursue my dreams.

"I believe there are many more stories like mine that have not been told to the world."