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03. April 2019

Rwanda: "Children of the Enemy"

Press release: Cologne, 4 April 2019. “Children of the perpetrators” or “children of the enemy” – these are the names used even now, 25 years after the genocide in Rwanda, for those born to women and girls who were raped during that period. Now young adults, they and their mothers are still being ostracised by relatives and neighbours. To counteract this, the organisation SEVOTA organises projects to encourage reconciliation and peace.

The Cologne-based women’s rights organisation medica mondiale has been funding and supporting SEVOTA (“Solidarité pour l’Epanouissement des Veuves et des Orphelins visant le Travail et l’Autopromotion”) projects for more than ten years. Women’s forums create a space where survivors are taught how to talk with their children about what they experienced. And in 2016 Godelieve Mukasarasi and her colleagues also started to organise youth forums, where the young adults could meet and share their experiences or talk about their relationships with their mothers. “None of us had ever spoken about this before – not even to each other,” says one forum participant. “The youth forum is the first opportunity we have to talk about this without shame.”

25th anniversary of the genocide: sexualized violence has a lasting effect

Between April and July 1994 in Rwanda, more than 250,000 women and girls were raped; two thirds of them were infected with HIV. As in all wars, the militias deployed sexualised violence strategically as a means of spreading fear, demonstrating power and weakening the enemy. “The hearts of these women were broken three times,” says Godelieve Mukasarasi, founder of SEVOTA. “Once by the genocide, once by the rape and once by AIDS.” The consequences: traumatic stress, health problems, poverty. “In Rwanda, as elsewhere, poverty is female,” observes Ms Mukasarasi. On the 25th anniversary of both the genocide and the founding of SEVOTA, she is calling for improvements in the economic situation of women, as well as training and education to help change gender images and break down prejudices. “Women want a safe environment, good medical care, and education for their children.”

Wartime rape influences society

For 25 years, medica mondiale has been raising public awareness of the consequences of unprocessed trauma due to wartime rape, including the rapes committed during World War II. “Symptoms of trauma can be transferred within a family and on to the next generation,” says Monika Hauser, founder of medica mondiale. “Daughters and sons take on the generally unseen trauma of their mothers (and fathers).” As Monika Hauser explains, it is important to reflect on and deal with our own experiences and the wounds suffered by previous generations. This can relieve burdens and stress, in turn encouraging and enabling personal growth.

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