Rebooting Rwandan Women After 1994 Genocide

viagra order sans-serif; font-size: small; line-height: 200%;”>It is an occasion to remember the lives that were lost and show solidarity and unity to ensure it never happens again – in Rwanda or anywhere else

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The pain in her voice is clear and strong when Esperance Nyirahabiyambere, a 37 years old widow and mother of three recalls the tragic events during the 100 dark days two decades ago when the Genocide against the Tutsis destroyed Rwanda as a nation and forever changed her life as it did for all other Rwandan citizens

The killers chose who they would kill according to whether we were registered as Hutus or Tutsis. The system of registration was a big challenge for me and my siblings, she says

Esperance was neither the one nor the other. Her mother was registered as Tutsi and her father as Hutu.

Loved by her mother and farther

To Esperance her family background was not a big issue. She knew she was born 17 years ago in the then former Kibyue province, now Karongi district in Western Rwanda.

She also knew that her mother loved her and that her father took care of the whole family. That was what was important to her. She did not find her own family background problematic at all, but others did.


“I had not turned 18 yet and I did not have an ID card as proof to show if I was a Hutu or a Tutsi. I faced so many difficulties to prove who I was and where I was coming from. Eventually I got hold of an ID stating I was Hutu,” explains Esperance.

But getting an ID did not solve all the challenges she and her family faced. The killers kept on coming to the family’s home to look for her mother.

“My father had to hide my mother in the forest, in the bushes, – all the time he shifted her. He was the one who brought her food and the only one who knew where she was. Even at night she could not sleep at home. Because the Hutu Interahamwe were passing by all the time to check if my mother was there we couldn’t hide any of her family members either. Of a family of 30 only my mother survived.”

Esperance is eager to tell her story. It is as if the words are flowing out of her mouth. But in the midst of her narrative she cannot hold her tears back. She pauses but insists to carry on with her story.

“It is important to talk about the Genocide against the Tutsis so that others understand it. We who experienced it have to share our experiences in order to prevent that it ever happens again,” she says before she continues and explain that she eventually had to flee from Rwanda and take rescue in a refugee camp in Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This is where Esperance met her husband. They both returned to Rwanda after liberation but in in 2006 he passed away.

Born to bridge and sharing

Small scale farmers are being empowered to practice commercial agriculture to boost homeseated revenues

Esperance was left alone with the responsibility of three small children. But her background and experiences enabled her to reach out to others for help and support and give it the same again.

In 2007 she started Tuzamuragaseke Cooperative for a mixed group of 62 single mothers. Some of them have lost their husbands during the genocide against the Tutsis, others lost the husband afterwards and some have the sole responsibility for their family because their husbands are in prison convicted for crimes committed during the Genocide. Apart from sharing and learning from each other experiences as single mothers, they engage in farming, which provide them with an income.

“I wanted to bring this special group of women together because we have common problems. We all have to provide for our families, we need security and we need others in a similar situation to share and speak with about all kind of matters from the children, unity to land rights issues,” Esperance explains.

Women Empowerment and Reconciliation

ActionAid supports Tuzamuragaseke Cooperative to promote reconciliation, co-existence and women empowerment as a driver for sustainable development and positive change.

The support includes building and running Giseti Early Childhood Development Centre, which provides pre-primary education to over 70 vulnerable children and advancing sustainable agriculture.

ActionAid also assists the cooperative with training programs in business management, cooperation management, human rights, women empowerment and leadership skills.

Women empowerment is a prime focus area of ActionAid. We believe that women play a central role in all development processes not only in their families and on community level but also for the entire society, says Josephine Uwamariya, Country Director, ActionAid Rwanda

While Rwanda commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsis, she acknowledges the countries admirable development achievements.

Admirable achievements

Compulsory 9- year basic education for all Rwandan children is largely met with 96 % coverage. More than 2 million pupils are enrolled in primary school today, unlike in 1994, when there were only 600,000 pupils.

The number of public hospitals and health clinics has also more than doubled in the last 20 years and 95% of the population is covered by the national health insurance Mutuel de Sante, which guarantees free medical care.

In parliament, 66% of the seats are hold by women making Rwanda the only country in the world, which have more women parliamentarians than men.

In addition the poverty level has been reduced drastically from above 50% to 45% within the last five years.

But the high number of people who still lives below the poverty is unacceptably for a country, which aspires to become a middle income, society by 2020.

It has to be addressed by increased public financing towards agriculture especially directed towards smallholder women farmers, Josephine Uwamariya points out.

To enhance an inclusive development process and to make sure that all citizens – irrespective of any diversity in thinking, way of living and back ground are equal players and contributors in making sure a genocide never happens again and in rebuilding the nation, the economic empowerment of women is paramount, she says.

Work and friendships helps to move on

Elisabeth Nyirafaranga, Genocide widow from Gitesi, Karongi District, Western Rwanda: I saw the brain coming out of the baby’s skull when they smashed its head

Rwandan women have been empowered to fight poverty

It’s as if Elisabeth Nyirafaranga carries a large shadow of sorrow. When she begins to tell what happened two decades ago, it becomes clear why.

“First we thought we could stay at home when the genocide against the Tutsis started, but when the roof got torn off the house and the killings and lootings only increased we realized we had to flee. My husband told me to bring the children home to my family who were Hutus and where he thought they would be safe. He took refuge in a nearby stadium,” she narrates.

“My sister had fled to our family home as well. She had four children and we were there with six small children when the killers came and demanded to get a cow. We though our children would be safe at our own families home. We had never imagined that it would be a close relative of ours who would cause their death.

But it was my cousin who alerted the others and told them where we were hiding with the small children. When they came we did not have any cows to give them. They raped us instead.

The second time they came, it was worse. Again they raped us. There were many men; one man after another, raped us. I was so scared about what they would do to the children. I pleaded, but they had no mercy. They smashed the children’s heads. It was so brutal. My children were 9 month and 2 ½ years old.

Since 2000 I have been a member of Duhozanye Cooperative, which ActionAid supports. It’s the common work and friendship in the Cooperative that has helped me persevere. It can be hard to accept and forgive what happened and move on, but by listening to the others and hear their stories and how they have coped makes it easier.

My husband did not survive the Genocide against the Tutsis and I got denied access to our land after both he and the children were dead. ActionAid has also helped my through a legal process to regain my land

I am now married to my husband’s brother. We have six children together.”


ActionAid has supported Duhozanye Cooperative since 2007 to advance social justice, reconciliation, women empowerment and the promotion of sustainable agriculture including training in farming techniques and an animal raring program with a pig for each family.

As genocide widows many of the 12 members of Duhozanye Cooperative had lost their home and land, which traditionally belonged to the husband’s family. ActionAid has also assisted the cooperative’s members to claim their constitutionally rights to land and livelihood.

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