Pro-femmes/Twese Hamwe recently completed a program with International Alert that focused on reintegrating genocide survivors, former combatants, ex-prisoners, and youth into Rwandan society. Our role within this effort was to facilitate dialogue between these groups. The following is testimony from a participant from Gatumba, Rwanda who participated in these dialogue sessions:
The genocide took my entire family. Life after the genocide was unthinkable to me. I found no interest in anything. I lived my life as it came, in solitude and poverty. I had no trust in people around me. I had fields, but I would not go to work… The trauma was such that I could not do anything sensible, or do anything with other people. I isolated myself in fear and hatred.
The Alert project helped me accept myself, and grieve. The training given by Pro-femmes has helped me reintegrate into the community in all aspects, and to meet people again. I realised I had a lot of prejudices against ex-prisoners, and Hutus generally. I did not know that they, too, had suffered, in some respects, from the genocide. We spoke together of the topics related to the analysis of conflicts, and we learned how to solve them. The support given by ARCT Ruhuka [another lead organization in the program] has helped me recover my mental health, so I managed to find reasons to live and I started to live in harmony with all the people around me.
I feel I have been accepted by other people, and I have a new network of relationships thanks to the project. I even accepted working with the killers of my family. Today, I earn a good living, I have activities which bring me money, I have projects for the future. I even decided to forgive the culprits of my family’s killing.*
For over fifteen years, Pro-femmes/Twese Hamwe has successfully led similar reintegration programs for returning prisoners, survivors and demobilized soldiers, reaching a total of 3,308 men and women in Rwanda. We have also helped to reintegrate an additional 3,600 former soldiers from the Mutobo Demobilization and Reintegration camp on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Pro-femmes/Twese Hamwe has played a pivotal role in many national Rwandan peace initiatives, providing training in peacekeeping, conflict management, mediation and reconciliation that empower women in leadership roles. Together with the Rwandan Ministry of Justice, we have trained 25,000 Abunzi, over 30% of whom were women, responsible for mediating community land disputes. We also trained judges and witnesses—who were 35% women—in the gacaca courts that tried genocide crimes.
Four years after the adoption of the Action Plan for Resolution 1325, Pro-femmes/Twese Hamwe is still longing for a Rwanda that is rid of all forms of gender related discrimination. We are now coordinating a coalition against gender-based violence that mobilizes many elements of Rwandan civil society. We envision a stable and peaceful Rwanda, characterised by equality and equity between men and women throughout the development process.
We are now developing a program in partnership with Pro-Femmes, Men's Resources International, and the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre called Women and Men as Partners in Peacebuilding, which will provide training and mentoring for women and men to work as partners in combating gender-based and community violence in the Great Lakes region of Africa.