By Anne-Marie de Brouwer, Eefje de Volder and Milena Adamczewska
Conversations with survivors of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide (Gloriose’s statement)
Statement of Gloriose, a survivor of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
In the hundred days of genocide against the Tutsi that ravaged Rwanda between April and July 1994, an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were raped. No one was spared. Grandmothers were raped in the presence of their grandchildren; young girls watched the massacre of their families before being taken as sex slaves. Boys and men too fell victim to sexual atrocities. The sexual violence during the genocide was extreme, systematic and used as a very effective instrument to destroy an ethnic group. Those who survived are a living testament to our collective abandonment of them. But they also represent the promise of a transformative change, the voice that we should listen to and spread further.
Ten years ago, the book “The Men Who Killed Me” was published. It gave 17 of the survivors (16 women and one man) a stage upon which they could share their photos, harrowing experiences and narrative with the world, to bear witness to the crimes committed against hundreds of thousands of others. In their strength and courage, they challenge the stigma of surviving sexual violence and living with HIV/AIDS (an astonishing 70 per cent of survivors are HIV positive). Their stories have impacted people worldwide to the extent that it has motivated them to actively make a change in addressing conflict-related sexual violence or to speak out about their own experiences of sexual violence.
Now, in light of the upcoming 25th commemoration of the genocide – April 2019 – it is the survivors’ wish to put forth an updated edition of the book to show how their lives have unfolded in the past 10 years. The survivors will be able to do so with the support of the people and organisations previously involved in realizing the first edition of the book, namely Jean Gakwandi and Mama Lambert (Solace Ministries), Anne-Marie de Brouwer and Eefje de Volder (Impact: Center against Human Trafficking and Sexual Violence in Conflict), Samer Muscati (Toronto University), Sandra Ka Hon Chu, and Wolf Legal Publishers. In addition to this 2nd edition of the book, the partners will develop online educational materials on conflict-related sexual violence, justice and reconciliation, that can be used as an interactive platform for course materials in universities and schools (including video and audio footage of interviews with survivors), to contribute to the awareness and prevention of conflict-related sexual violence worldwide.
The lives of the survivors have changed for the better and adding new content (text and photos) to the book and having online educational materials available will inform people all over the world of the survivors’ journey and struggles in their lives as well as their extraordinary strength, courage and resilience. Four out of the 17 survivors have sadly deceased due to the consequences of the sexual violence that had been inflicted upon them; a heart-breaking reality of the genocide that unfortunately also needs to be given attention. The other survivors still need support, thus proceeds of the book will go to them, so that they can continue to build themselves a better future by, for instance, setting up their own businesses or providing education for their children.
To republish the book and create the educational platform on conflict-related sexual violence, IMPACT is currently running a crowdfunding campaign. Donations are rewarded with specific gifts – postcards, prints of photos, bags of Rwandan Bèkske coffee, free books and access to the interactive educational platform.
We believe that this is an important way for people to show the survivors that they remember and care. By commemorating the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi and helping guarantee “never again”.
Conversations with survivors of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide (Marie Clair
Photo: Photo: Yair Aronshtam