A report from the field, from SURF Programme Manager, Sam Munderere:
Seated comfortably are a group of mothers whose children are in the Foundation Rwanda sponsorship program in Kibuye.
Through the distribution of school fees to regional groups we have been able to encounter and learn from mothers about their experiences of parenting children born as a result of rape.
Although the women are very thankful for the support of school fees and educational materials, most of their children are now teenagers, and the mothers who are married face problems of domestic violence related to having a child from Interahamwe, especially during the commemoration period.
One of the group commented that her husband refers to her son born from rape as Interahamwe. The child suffers mistreatment from her husband and as a result has been segregated from the family and is now living with a neighbour. The situation also affects the mother who experiences feelings of guilt for being raped and having children as a result. This is not an isolated case, and two other women expressed similar experiences.
Children from such families are adversely affected and not performing well in school. From the group of 43 mothers in Kibuye, five expressed the problem of their child’s academic progression and that they had to repeat classes because of such family difficulties. Another issue is that most of the children are now 17 years old and feel reluctant studying at primary level with much younger pupils.
We asked how Foundation Rwanda can help and they suggested that the students who are repeating classes and are uncomfortable studying with lower age groups, may be encouraged to attend vocational schools. In addition, the women believed that counseling for mothers, training in parenting and disclosure would be beneficial.
In terms of disclosure to the child, a number of mothers remain wary of doing so.
One of the mothers who has disclosed to her child said that her daughter, now 17 years old, said that when she attends university she wants to study law in order bring the men who raped her mother to justice. Ostensibly one of the men who raped her mother was released by the gacaca courts.
As I mentioned in my earlier update we are very hopeful that the community counseling initiative will help a great deal to address some of these issues. But the most immediate concern is find a way to support those who are repeating classes.