Brief history

“Children of hate”

Every year in April, the Rwandan state commemorates the genocide that left some 800,000 people dead in 1994. Many people, however, can hardly bare the public events because memories of torture, murder, pillage and rape flood their minds, so they would prefer to have no public reminders.

By Stefanie Keienburg

Some 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were raped in three months of bloodshed. Hutu militias systematically used sexualised violence to terrorise the Tutsi minority. In revenge, Tutsi militants abused Hutu women. Both sides destroyed families and ruined women’s lives.

About 20,000 women bore the children of their rapists and are still raising them. These children are called “children of hate” in Rwanda. The mothers worry about their kids’ future. They are not accepted anywhere, but rather insulted, marginalised and sometimes exposed to violence. Rwanda’s public discourse hardly takes note of these mothers and their children. The state is not taking care of the people concerned.

In 2005, the Rwandan non-governmental organisations SEVOTA and Kanyarwanda commissioned a study to assess the situation of 30 survivors. The idea was to better understand their needs. The study resulted in an innovative approach to enable the women to meet others who share a similar fate and help them to improve their lot.

In March 2006, SEVOTA and Kanyarwanda held the first women’s forum for mothers with children of rape. Currently, such meetings are held six times per year: 30 women meet in Kigali, the capital city, often without their family knowing where they are. To improve the bonds between mothers and children, the two NGOs organise parties and field trips. The goal is to establish a network of solidarity the women can rely on long term. Moreover, the silence must end so families and communities become aware of the women’s situation.

Today, there are five well-established self-help forums with 168 mothers. Thanks to years of counselling and support, many of them have accepted their children and now willingly take care of their children’s health and education. medica mondiale, the Cologne-based women’s rights organisation has been supporting the women’s forums since 2008. Earlier, the German Development Service (DED) had done so. (sk)

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