Five years ago today, on 19 June 2015, the United Nations General Assembly (A/RES/69/293) proclaimed 19 June of each year the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, in order to raise awareness of the need to put an end to conflict-related sexual violence, to honour the victims and survivors of sexual violence around the world and to pay tribute to all those who have courageously devoted their lives to and lost their lives in standing up for the eradication of these crimes.
Survivors Fund (SURF) has been working to support survivors of sexual violence in conflict ever since our establishment after the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. That work began with supporting widows of the genocide to constitute into AVEGA in 1995, which continues to serve as our principal partner organisation today – through ongoing projects such as the Empowering Vulnerable Genocide Widows in Western Rwanda to Alleviate Extreme Poverty (EVWEP) project, funded by UK Aid Direct, the challenge fund of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) which is supporting civil society organisations to achieve sustained poverty reduction.
It also continues through our Foundation Rwanda programme which supports women survivors of the genocide and their children born to them of rape. Award-winning photographer and Foundation Rwanda co-founder, Jonathan Torgovnik, first documented the stories of women survivors raped during the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, and the children born to them of that rape, when he visited Rwanda in 2006. He interviewed a number of the women and photographed them together with their children, published in the 2009 book “Intended Consequences: Rwandan Children Born of Rape”.
Jonathan returned to Rwanda twelve years later (the 25th anniversary of the genocide) to photograph ad interview some of the families he had met for his upcoming book and multimedia project: “Disclosure: Rwandan Children Born of Rape”. The children have now grown up, and have been made aware of the circumstances of their birth. Using photographs and interviews with the mothers and children, Jonathan’s powerful book considers the long-lasting effects of genocidal rape and portrays the mothers and children dealing with the difficulties and complexities of their fate.
“Disclosure: Rwandan Children Born of Rape” by Jonathan Torgovnik is now available for pre-order on shashasha. It documents the powerful story of survivors of sexual violence in conflict in Rwanda – which we remember, and salute, on this day.