The Year in Review/Preview

This past year, 2012, has been a landmark for Survivors Fund (SURF). In partnership with AVEGA Agahozo, the national association of widows of the genocide, we have proven the impact of our holistic model of sustainable livelihood development for survivors of the genocide and have secured the funding to scale that up nationally across Rwanda.

In partnership with SURF, this year, AVEGA has opened new offices in the Southern and Northern Provinces of Rwanda to support over 10,000 genocide widows, with funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The Widowed Survivors Empowerment Project (WSEP) will provide these widows with access for the first time to the wraparound package of support offered by AVEGA, which includes counselling, legal aid, advocacy and, crucially, livelihood development through training and access to capital for income-generating activities. From December, we extended the reach of this project further to widows in the Western Province, through a new grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

The holistic model of support, which addresses the multifarious needs of widows – social, economic, legal, medical and psychological – is based on our successful HIV+ Survivors Integration Project (SIP) funded by Comic Relief, which concluded in October 2012. We are proud that an independent evaluation of SIP described the work as an “extraordinary success” for having “ably demonstrated the way in which judicious interventions in a complex policy and political context can mobilise potential within a disadvantaged population that is otherwise easily written off.”

However, as many widows are now ageing, without the families that traditionally would support them, the need for AVEGA’s help, and SURF’s support, is ever more critical.

Nineteen years on, survivors are still very much dealing with the consequences of the genocide. Whether young or old, widow or orphan, the situation for many of the 400,000 survivors in Rwanda remains challenging. The legacy of genocide touches almost every aspect of their lives. Many are impoverished and face complex health problems, such as HIV and recurring trauma, as a direct result of the violence perpetrated against them during the genocide. Many are still without shelter, without access to education and in need of support to bury relatives. Some survivors are still threatened with violence by former perpetrators.

The work of SURF has made a difference in the lives of thousands of survivors over the past year, but there are many other vulnerable and marginalised survivors still without support. The Government of Rwanda Assistance Fund for Survivors (FARG) has been most essential in delivering support at scale for survivors; however, it is massively overstretched too. This year, FARG has been able to increase the number of young survivors it supports into university to nearly 5,000. However, there are a further 35,000 young survivors due to graduate from secondary school in the next three years; only a fraction will receive such support from FARG.

With many of these young survivors caring for other orphans, the likelihood of them ever being able to secure employment to support their surrogate families without a university education becomes ever more remote as each year passes. SURF’s partnership with AERG to pilot a new Youth Entrepreneurship Training Programme, and to extend our existing Education into Employment programme, goes some way to address this critical need. However, it is a modest programme reaching only around 1,000 young survivors, which is a fraction of the population requiring support.

It is for that reason that our work ahead will focus on advocating for reparation for survivors of the genocide in Rwanda.

2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the genocide, and the closure of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The United Nations has spent over $1 billion since it was established in 1995, but it has no mandate to award reparation to victims of cases that it hears – a shortcoming that its own former President has stated will be “forever a stain on its reputation.”

We believe there is a unique opportunity to address the issue of reparation and call for an explicit form of restorative justice for survivors to be prioritised by the UN Security Council. We hope to be aided in this advocacy by the Government of Rwanda, which is committed to enforcing the thousands of compensation awards made to genocide survivors through gacaca, which indigent perpetrators have been unable to honour.

This is a once-in-a-generation moment…. SURF is not leading the campaign for reparation, but we are committed to support our partner organisations to do so. We are working together to call on the member states of the UN to honour its resolution to assist survivors in a form that will recognise and realise the right of genocide survivors in Rwanda to reparation. In so doing, the UN can demonstrate its commitment to continue to fight impunity, and make a vital contribution to reconciliation in Rwanda.

Reparation will not solve all the problems of survivors, but it will at least deliver a degree of restorative justice for them. The survivors will be able to rebuild their own lives, with a home, an education, healthcare, and security. If reconciliation is truly possible, it can only be built on this foundation of justice. It is towards this end, that the work of SURF will be focused over the year ahead.

The purpose of this report is to record the year’s events, to explain what we’ve learned from them, and to give a clear picture of what we are planning for the future. It also provides details on how Survivors Fund (SURF) is run.

SURF marked its fifteenth anniversary in 2012 on which we also document here. We hope that this report will convince you to extend your support of SURF for at least the next fifteen years, so critical to our future as well as that of the survivors of genocide in Rwanda.

Nick Joseph, Chair
Liliane Umubyeyi, Outgoing Co-Chair
April 2013