Today (October 15th) is the International Day of Rural Women. Established by the UN General Assembly in 2008, the day directs attention to both the contribution that women make in rural areas, and the many challenges they face.
Many of the survivors supported by the partners of SURF, in particular AVEGA Agahozo, are rural women. Programmes we fund include income-generating activities, such as the current initiative with Indego Africa, and healthcare, a component of work which we will extend with funding from Comic Relief.
A critical component is advocacy, specifically providing legal support to women survivors of the genocide in rural areas at risk of gender-based violence. Through ongoing funding from the Sigrid Rausing Trust, SURF is supporting the work of AVEGA to raise awareness of the GBV Law in Rwanda, and to accompany women survivors to bring legal cases against those that committed sexual violence during the genocide.
The programme extends to support a girls football team established in Kamonyi, which have enjoyed international success after winning the national championships and being placed second in the Africa finals in Kenya this summer. They are pictured below in their new Cambridge United football kit, donated by SURF supporter, Joy Childs, with their team banner: “Let Us Entertain You by Fighting Gender Based Violence”
However, the threat to rural women remains high. Lindsey Hilsum, SURF Patron, reported on ITN this week that attacks against women in the DRC by Rwandan rebels (Hutu extremists) are still prevalent. Though one positive response has been the arrest of Callixte Mbarushimana on Monday, Redress and others highlight there is cause for concern that the arrest warrant does not include the many crimes he committed during the genocide – a significant number, like the atrocities he led in DRC, systematically targeting rural women.
There is a great deal more work to do to ensure that rural women in Rwanda, and the DRC, receive the protection they so critically still need.