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24 August 2018

Evaluation Rwanda: Returning to life – together

The Sevota project supports women survivors of violence and their children in strengthening their relationships and helps reduce family conflict.

The consequences of violence are still felt by many in Rwanda , even 24 years after the genocide. While ethnicity officially no longer plays a role, stigmatisation and discrimination continue to be widespread. Women who were raped during the genocide are particularly affected by this. Many conceived and gave birth to children from rape. These children have grown up to become young adults and are often excluded and disadvantaged as the “children of genocide perpetrators”.

Promoting reconciliation

The Rwandan non-government organisation Sevota aims to break through this conflict. It provides these women and their children with psychosocial and socioeconomic support in the form of women’s forums, youth clubs and self-help groups. The exchange with fellow survivors often gives people new courage and helps them to pull themselves out of isolation and to participate actively in their communities again. Sevota conducts small projects to assist survivors in earning their own incomes and raises awareness for their particular situation among their social environment. medica mondiale has been supporting this work since 2009.

The current project (2015–2018) improves the social integration of surviving women and their children. It takes a family-centric approach with a particular focus on the relationships between mothers and their children. These relationships are frequently under extreme stress and laden with conflict, given the violence experienced during the genocide and the subsequent stigmatisation. Sevota runs solidarity groups to promote a better understanding of the individual experiences of those affected. On a wider scale, Sevota intends to support the reconciliation process in Rwanda through the project.

Consolidating positive effects

The German evaluator Kathrin Groninger and her Rwandan colleague Grace Kagoyire evaluated the project in late 2017. They collected the required information mainly from discussions with clients and staff, partly also from the organisation’s inventories, project reports and strategy papers.

The evaluation confirmed the following: Sevota’s projects have drawn attention to the problems and behaviours of women and their children. They have reduced conflict within families, and mothers and their children have started communicating with others and overcoming their trauma. The Sevota team is well organised and performs indispensable work. Since there is such a large number of women and children requiring intensive counselling and support, Sevota needs more staff if the organisation is to continue to provide its clients with high-quality support. Collaborations with other therapists and psychosocial services could be helpful in this regard.

Making space for solidarity, creating understanding

During the project term, Sevota organised eight women’s forums where survivors had an opportunity to exchange experiences, receive psychosocial counselling and learn techniques for overcoming trauma. Most women subsequently organised self-help groups in their own towns and continue to meet regularly. They were provided with some funds to do so. About two thirds of the women reported that this was beneficial for their mental health. Nine youth clubs were established to provide support to young adults. Sevota shared advice on savings communities, access to microcredits and occupational opportunities with about 20 to 30 young people in each club. The young adults too reported that they now felt safer and more confident.

Sevota also included husbands in relevant activities to ensure that the immediate social environment of affected women and their children would be better equipped to understand their difficult situation. This raised awareness of the mental and socioeconomic problems of those affected. The evaluators recommend that Sevota also raise awareness among local authorities and national institutions in order to achieve sustainable change and reduce stigmatisation in the long term.

Assuring quality

Sevota needs a functional evaluation and monitoring system to verify the effectiveness of the organisation’s services and assure their quality. While both women and young adults reported of progress, the evaluators were unable to assess or evaluate the precise, actual degree of improvement due to a lack of documentation. The organisation has monitoring concepts and tools, but does not apply these in its everyday work. Sevota should additionally develop a sustainable funding plan, intensify its PR activities and drive the establishment of a sound organisational structure with permanent staff in order to continue or even expand the organisation’s project work in the long term.

Facilitating change

The evaluators concluded that there continues to be a large number of organisations which offer support to genocide survivors in Rwanda. However, Sevota is the only one to take a family-centric approach in its work with women raped during the genocide, and the children born from such rape. Sevota’s activities have shown that it is fundamentally important for survivors to have their individual stories understood. This understanding gives them greater strength in dealing with their traumas and communicating more openly within their families. It also promotes survivors’ transition from being passive community members to taking on more active roles, and it is essential for reducing discrimination and facilitating reconciliation within Rwandan society.