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04 April 2014

Rwanda: Poverty, Social Exclusion, AIDS

Press release: Cologne, April 4, 2014. On April 7, the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, medica mondiale is calling for more support from the Rwandan government for women who were raped and for their children.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), between 250,000 and 500,000 women and girls were raped during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Many of the survivors then gave birth to children of the rapists. Official estimates assume there are between 2000 and 5000 such chil-dren, the unreported numbers are higher. On the 20th anniversary of the genocide, April 7, Karen Knipp-Rentrop, Grants Program Officer at medica mondiale, sees the state of progress as very dis-couraging. “A large number of women became infected with HIV because of being raped and are living in severe poverty in their villages. Even where medicines to treat HIV and AIDS are available, the women do not have the money to travel to the nearest clinic or to ensure a healthy diet. The children and their mothers continue to experience stigmatisation from their families and their village communities.”

The Rwandan government set up a fund to support survivors of the genocide. “These funds are totally insufficient,” explains Ms Knipp-Rentrop. medica mondiale is assisting the Rwandan organisation SEVOTA (Solidarité pour l’Epanouissement des Veuves et des Orphelins visant le Travail et l’Auto promotion) to carry out advocacy work for the survivors and their children. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda recognised rape as a genocidal crime. However, the children conceived by rape are excluded from many statutory benefits for survivors of the genocide. SEVOTA is campaigning for this to be changed: the organisation helps to make the appropriate contacts with the authorities and supports the women as they apply for school money, for example. “They want their children to have a good education,” says Ms Knipp-Rentrop, “and are trying to give them a good life.”

medica mondiale has been working in Rwanda since 2008, supporting the women's rights organisation SEVOTA to organise regular Women's Forums for those with children conceived during rape. This brings women from various regions of the country together in the capital Kigali. During the two-day meetings, they can experience that they are not alone – especially with their shame and the re-jection of their children. SEVOTA encourages the women to talk with their children about what they experienced and to accept them.