16 Apr 2012
Mukomeze (Kinyarwanda for “empower her”) is a non-profit organization established to raise awareness of and funds for women and girls who suffered sexual violence during the genocide in Rwanda. The Dutch-based organisation developed “The Men Who Killed Me”, a book featuring testimonials and portraits of sixteen women and one man who survived sexual violence during the Rwandan genocide.
The survivors which feature in the book are all in membership of Solace Ministries, a partner organisation of Survivors Fund (SURF). The editors of The Men Who Killed Me, Anne-Marie de Brouwer and Sandra Ka Hon Chu, this month published an incisive report on the situation of the survivors featured in the book. The report focused in particular on the perspective of the survivors on the gacaca process, but it also highlighted the challenges for the group in the years ahead, as this excerpt details:
Many positive developments for women generally have been implemented in the years following the genocide, such as the right to own land and property and an inheritance law that mandates the equal division of a man’s property between his wife and children.
Nevertheless, even 18 years after the genocide, more needs to be done for survivors of sexual violence. Two survivors featured in “The Men Who Killed Me” passed away in 2010 from poor health, largely related to the trauma they experienced during the genocide. There needs to be better access to health care, counselling and other treatment for all survivors of sexual violence, including better access to a wider range of HIV treatment that addresses the individual needs of people living with HIV, nutritious food to maintain their health, counselling for mothers and children when the children are born from rape, and counselling and therapy for post-traumatic stress. Survivors’ underlying trauma necessitates their need for ongoing care, including home-based care. Women’s right to inherit family property should also be better enforced – a right that is often violated when women, particularly those living with HIV, are ejected with their children from their homes by their in-laws when their spouses pass away.
All children in Rwanda, especially orphans and other vulnerable children, also need greater support. This was a concern expressed by many survivors we spoke to, who are caring for their children and orphaned family members, not always able to afford those children’s education fees and materials, and usually receive no support for this additional burden.
Income-generating activities and stable housing are also crucial and continue to be inadequate for many survivors. Moreover, the importance of symbolic gestures should not be under-estimated in ensuring crimes of sexual violence are not forgotten.
Whatever remains to be done, however, it is clear that survivors of sexual violence should have meaningful input on what and how measures should be implemented.