A Women Genocide Survivors Retreat was held in August 2017 in the Southern Province of Rwanda. The retreat brought together 30 women survivors of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. It was organised by Liliane Pari Umuhoza, a former intern from Survivors Fund (SURF) who is a survivor herself, with the support of Survivors Fund (SURF)
Many of the attendees were women who had experienced rape during the genocide and as a consequence are HIV positive and have children born from that atrocious experience. Others are women who live in extreme poverty, and have chronic diseases like Hepatitis and many other detrimental and incurable diseases, all as consequences of the genocide. The main purpose of the retreat was to give psychological support to these women by giving them time and space for self-expression, and to empower them so that they can be more resilient and move forward on the path of healing.
Some of the highlights of the retreat included:
- It was the first time for some of these women who attended the retreat to share their stories. To hear someone being able to tell her story after 23 years is one of the greatest outcomes of the retreat because sharing their stories is the best tool in the journey of healing and resilience.
- Solutions for problems that these women are still facing came from themselves. Presenters and counselors were working as facilitators who were there to strengthen and encourage the women to express themselves, not to solve those women’s problems. It was so powerful to see one woman giving advice to another woman of how to get out of a struggle that she is facing because maybe, that woman faced the same problem some time ago.
- Survivors Fund (SURF) offered financial support as capital to women who formed groups to start an income generating activity.
- Women who are in a very critical health status will be supported by Survivors Fund (SURF) for quick medical assistance.
- The youngest among the women who attended the retreat was raped during the genocide and gave birth at the age of 12. She finished high school but couldn’t afford to go to university. She was recognized during the retreat and Survivors Fund (SURF) awarded her a scholarship.
- One of the women who has a problem with shelter, has been recognised by Survivors Fund (SURF) as well. They guaranteed her that they would pay for her 6 months’ rent and keep advocating until she can have her own shelter to live in with her three children.
The full report of the retreat is available here. Thanks to all those that made it possible, including Samuel Munderere, Dr. Rutembesa Eugene, Nkuranga Jean Pierre, Emmanuel Prince Ndahiro and of course Liliane Pari Umuhoza.