As ACFODE marks 30 years of promoting Women’s Rights and Gender equality, she has embraced a new and more dynamic approach! On the 27th of April 2015, ACFODE was privileged to send out some of her members to Rwanda for an exchange visit, geared towards promoting cross-border learning on ‘gender based sexualized violence’. The project team in partnership with EIRENE had a three days cross border exchange on ways of handling domestic violence.

Rwanda is at the epitome of beauty, with beautiful women, assiduous men, and dirt free streets in the city, and on a whole, the ambience of the country is such a fresh breath to travelers. Nonetheless, Rwanda is not just a simpleton of beauty, however she is- a country deeply engrossed in the welfare of all her citizens .We were intrigued to discover that the government of Rwanda funds almost 80% of the Domestic Violence prevention projects in the country, provides universal health insurance for all citizens and effectively enforces laws that protect women’s rights.

Upon setting feet in Rwanda, our team was privileged to visit a one stop GBV center called Isange, a name that locally means ‘feel at home’. The center is integrated into the Police referral hospital and was established in 2009 initially to handle cases of SGBV after the genocide. All services at the center are free of charge. The center partners with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Justice and the Police, to ensure that cases of GBV are effectively handled and that both men and women access Justice.

In her remarks, Ms. Shafiga Murambwayire, a female police officer and the hospital coordinator, mentioned that at the establishment of the center, they received 3-4 cases a day; however, over time, numbers of received cases have shot to 10 cases on average – a day. This has been due to the massive sensitization that is carried out by government in the communities by encouraging people to hold each other accountable to reporting all cases and forms of GBV.A plan is in place to replicate the one stop center in every district.

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Team ACFODE, RWAMREC and RWN pose for the camera outside the GBV centre.

The center also entails a special section for children, 0-10 years that are handled in an exceptional and sensitive system that allows the children to provide necessary information and evidence experiences as regards to abuse. These children are also provided with psychosocial therapy as a provision for their healing process.

In a bid to provide relief to mostly women and children victims of the genocide, Rwanda Women’s Network was founded. The organization that majorly started with ‘genocide victims’ has since then integrated other vulnerable women and girls. However,Rwanda Women’s Network mainly focuses on the war widows, OVCs, and women victims of mass rape during the genocide. Here; women are equipped with economic empowerment skills and free health services. The organization additionally runs a health center which provides free services to women and girls

Additionally, Rwanda Women’s Network has established four one stop GBV shelters and Team ACFODE was privileged to visit one. During this visit, the team of community paralegals working under coordination of RWN to handle and refer cases of GBV shared experiences and best practices on how these cases are handled.

Having battled with the malevolence of brutality and dehumanization of humanity during the Genocide, Rwandans annually commemorate every April 7th-7th July, the lives that were lost during the 100 days man-slaughter genocide that claimed over 500,000-1,000,00 Rwandans. Our team was privileged to take part in this year’s commemoration.

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Susan Asio, a Program officer with ACFODE lays a wreath on one of the mass graves at the genocide memorial site.

Also, worth giving tribute is the Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre (RWAMREC). RWAMREC promotes the “Male Engage Approach” in which men directly participate in eradicating GBV at house hold level. They also sensitize couples before and after marriage, on promotion of peaceful homes and families.

Also captivating was the fact that Civil marriage is the only recognized form of marriage in Rwanda, and this acts as a protection mechanism for women. Cohabiting is illegal and punishable, and a man and woman are by law entitled to 50% ownership of property. Rwanda developed such laws after the genocide, to promote peace, unity and reconciliation, these laws are effectively enforced and abided by, and this has led to a high diminution of GBV.

Listening to testimonies of couples whose lives and marriages have been transformed as a result of trainings on GBV prevention by RWAMREC was quite stirring. The couples are fervently engaged in sensitizing and inspiring other couples and community members to break the silence against gender based violence in their communities. This synergy among the Rwandans is conceivably something that we Ugandans should adopt and enforce in order to eradicate the high prevalence of sexual and gender based-violence. Why not, pick a leaf or two?

Susan Asio

Program Officer – Gender and Economic Policy Department

Cross-Border Learning: a Practical Response to Sexual and Gender based Violence.

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