Each year, Rwanda commemorates the 1994 genocide perpetrated against Tutsi from April to July. The commemoration week runs from 7th to 13th April.
During the period, AVEGA undertakes various activities for its members. Those activities are divided into three phases: activities related to commemoration preparation, activities during the commemoration week, and activities during the 100 days commemoration period (from April to July). All genocide survivors associations continue commemoration events through all 100 days.
The theme of this year’s commemoration is “Let’s commemorate the Genocide perpetrated against Tutsi and Strive for Self-Reliance”. As an organisation of genocide widows, AVEGA aims to ensure that what happened should not be forgotten.
AVEGA’s activities mainly focus on visiting widows and orphans around the country with messages to keep them strong, and support them through the remembrance and in their recovery and development.
In previous years, AVEGA has placed great emphasis on sensitising members to join cooperatives and develop income generation projects, working with banks to access loans, and other partners, such as Survivors Fund (SURF), National Women’s Council (CNF), Rwandan Parliamentarian Women Forum (FFRP), National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), and Imbuto Foundation.
In 2011, AVEGA advocated for widows living with shelter built from old materials from their old houses destroyed during the genocide; 3,753 widow’s houses were identified as needing renovation. So far, 28 houses have been renovated; however, there remain a large number of widows with houses that still need to be renovated or those without houses. The aforementioned activities are vital to retain their hope for life. In this respect, AVEGA wishes to undertake further advocacy activities to tackle these issues.
During various meetings, it has come to our attention that elderly AVEGA members, over 70 years of age, do not have someone to care for them. In 2012, an AVEGA survey identified 1,462 elderly members with this problem. Through staff contributions and other donors, AVEGA has provided support to around 400 of these members.
AVEGA’s theme this year is: “Let’s care for them as they did for us.” In old age, widows are not able to gather themselves in associations where they can request loans to undertake any activities. They do not have children to assist them and need someone to help them with basic daily tasks as well as renovate their houses.
As a result of the genocide, many are suffering from incurable ailments including HIV and AIDS, acute trauma, and disability. For many, the only support they receive is from AVEGA.
AVEGA has been trying to provide basic support to them and now needs support from the government or third parties to enable members to deal with these issues. In addition, it is critical that these widows know that the Rwandan society is interested in their cause.
LONG TERM ASSISTANCE
A documentary film was produced to illustrate the problems and difficulties that these members face in undertaking development activities. This film has been used as an advocacy tool. Various meetings were held in order to share ideas and come up with strategies to provide assistance to them in a sustainable way. All the participants in the meetings agreed that the elderly members should receive support.
One idea proposed is to relocate these members into residential homes or, if this is not possible, to develop a systematic programme of home-based care. AVEGA has put in place a team that will carry out research, to determine appropriate next steps.
SHORT TERM ASSISTANCE
Before finding a long-term solution for the problem of widows and widowers in a sustainable way, AVEGA plans to undertake field visits during the commemoration period, especially to the 248 vulnerable widows who have been identified in the Southern Province (which represents almost half of AVEGA members and the majority of the vulnerable people). These visits will take place from May – July and will require provision such as mattresses, blankets, soaps, lotion. It is for this immediate assistance for which AVEGA appeals for support. Donations can be made through the AVEGA fundraising page.