Rwanda: NGO Empowers Genocide Widows and Victims of Sexual Violence
Thursday, February 18, 2010 3:30 PM

16 February 2010

Sixteen years later, the effects of sexual violence endured by women during the 1994 genocide can still be felt in Rwanda. Sexual violence, which was used to degrade, humiliate, and abuse women, has left many of them psychologically and physically traumatized. Avega-Agahozo, an NGO that was established in 1995 by 58 widows, currently provides legal and counseling services, as well as medical treatment to victims of sexual violence, through its three branches.

While many women chose to hide the effects of rape and other forms of sexual violence out of shame, deteriorating health has caused many of them to turn for help. For many women, gang rape and the use of sharpened objects during sex resulted in extensive damage to their reproductive organs. Women also suffer from psychological trauma, as noted by a Kigali-based journalist: “Many of the women still find it difficult to talk about their experiences. They are haunted by the genocide.” (IRIN News).

Avega also provides legal services to widows who want to testify against their perpetrators in the traditional gacaca courts. In addition, the NGO has built over 900 houses for widows and orphans and has encouraged women to engage in income-generating activities, such as basket-weaving.

Due to the targeting of mainly men and boys, most of the survivors of the genocide are widows. As reported by the genocide survivors fund, between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the 100 days of violence.


Compiled from: “Rwanda: Empowering Genocide Widows,” IRIN News (11 February 2010).