Rwanda: Social Cohesion Fundamental for Sustainable Development, Says First Lady.
By Athan Tashobya, The New Times.
The First Lady and Chairperson of Unity Club, Mrs Jeannette Kagame, has said that Rwandans can only achieve sustainable development if all stakeholders, including government, individuals and development partners, invest in programmes that bring about social cohesion.
She made the remarks on Sunday, shortly after inaugurating two houses (‘Impinganzima’) built by the Unity Club to accommodate 16 elderly Genocide widows who lost their children during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Mrs Kagame also laid a foundation stone for the construction of a hostel to accommodate 102 more widows.
The two projects will cost about Rwf400 million.
The two events-in-one, which took place in Mukura Sector, Huye District, was organised in partnership with AVEGA-Agahozo (Association des Veuves du Génocide d’Avril), an association of widows survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi.
Mrs Kagame said even though a lot has been done to support disadvantaged groups, a big number of elderly Genocide widows still need special and urgent support.
“Giving shelter to Genocide survivors, including these widows, is one of the avenues through which the government seeks to bring sustainable solutions to the social needs of such vulnerable groups in our society. I wish to remind all stakeholders and development partners, that whenever we put in place such initiatives, like providing better housing to the Genocide widows, we are giving them a family,” she said.
Such initiatives, Mrs Kagames said act as “catalysts of sustainable social-economic solutions.”
“May we continue to advocate for the socio-economic wellbeing of disadvantaged groups in general, with particular emphasis on orphans and widows of the Genocide,” she said.
Figures from AVEGA indicate that they have around 20,000 registered widows including 1686 who are over 70 years of age and 988 who lost their husbands and children (nuclear families) and have no family at all.
Some 1,473 of the association’s members are HIV positive, contracted as a result of rape during the 1994 Genocide.
This resulted into 1112 children (registered by Avega) born out of those rapes.
Rwanda: Social Cohesion Fundamental for Sustainable Development, Says First Lady – allAfrica.com
“Carrying with us the scars and consequences of the Genocide will never stop us from facing our challenges, bringing about unity and living a life we deserve. I wish to thank the Genocide survivors, especially widows, for your resilience,” Mrs Kagame said. She said that in light of how much they have overcome, the word ‘incike’ should no longer be used to describe them.
“I, therefore ask everyone staying near these widows, to love them as your own-because, for all they have been through, they truly need everyone’s support, to walk with them through the remaining days of thier lives,”
‘Testimony of love’
Avega president Valerie Mukabayire said the new homes for the widows “is a testimony of love” toward the vulnerable women.
“We thank the government and especially the First Lady who has been walking with us this journey since the establishment of AVEGA.”
Irene Nyiramanywa, one of the genocide widows, recalled that her husband was killed at the University Teaching Hospital in Huye, while the children were killed from home before her eyes.
“I survived with machete cuts… I lived alone in the house, with no one to share meals with, and to share my sorrows with. I feel like jumping right now, because I am so happy; when I look back at those days, when we would only count hours to survive, being hunted like animals… and now we have homes, we have new family members… it is such a joy.” Nyiramanywa said.
Recently, FARG conducted a study in five districts of Southern Province, which showed that many Genocide widows have been denied family properties, due to the fact that they lost everyone in the nucleus family, with none to support them.
“We should not be having this kind of inheritance issues, in such an era. We should come up with mechanisms to give justice to such vulnerable widows,” Mrs Kagame said.
During the event, Alex Kanyankole, the Development Bank of Rwanda chief executive, announced that the bank has earmarked Rwf100 million to support Unity Club in building the new hostel to accommodate over 100 Genocide widows across the country.
Dr Alvera Mukabaramba, the state minister in charge of community development and social affairs, noted that, “through such initiatives, we will be able to reach all the vulnerable survivors of the Genocide.”
The Mayor of Huye, who delivered the welcoming remarks, thanked the guests and partners for joining the residents of Mukura Sector at the event “which honoured the contribution of these widows to the Rwandan society.”
Formed in 1996, Unity Club brings together former and current government officials, and their spouses, to promote social cohesion and contribute to sustainable socio-economic development of the country.