Members of the Association of Widows of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, known by its French acronym AVEGA (Association des Veuves du Genocide Agahozo) say they get encouraged when people visit them, especially during the commemoration period.
The Rwamagana-based association which brings together women whose husbands were killed during the genocide on April 20 were visited by the management and staff of SteelRwa who handed over a cheque of Rwf3m to go towards supporting the activities of the widows.
SteelRwa, which is also located in Rwamagana district, visited the widows, as part the 28th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and made the donation as a way of supporting them to be resilient.
Members of AVEGA were grateful to management and staff of SteelRwa for making time to visit them and support them to be more resilient.
“When we see relatives and friends visiting us, especially in these times of remembrance of the Genocide, we feel empowered, we feel stronger because we have people who love us,” said AVEGA Vice President Mujawayezu Saverina.
AVEGA Deputy Director for National Affairs, Mujawayezu Saverina, explained to the visitors the history of the organization and what it has done over the years to comfort Genocide widows.
SteelRwa’s management, led by General Manager, Sandeep Phadnis, comforted the widows, reminding them that although they lost their children and spouses, they are not alone because those many still have them at heart, including the team that came to visit them.
“What brought us here is to tell you to be strong. You are our parents and we are your children. We care for you and we love them, and we will continue to be close to you anytime you need us,” he said.
In a bid to support their efforts, SteelRwa donated Rwf3 million to AVEGA, to go towards their income generating activities, with the General Manager promising more support to come.
The beneficiaries expressed their gratitude, stating that the funds will help them to procure more sewing machines to boost their tailoring project.
As part of Kwibuka 28, SteelRwanda staff and management visited the Sovu Genocide Memorial located in Kigabiro Sector, Rwamagana District, district to pay their respects to the victims of the genocide resting there.
The Sovu Genocide Memorial contains the bodies of 688 victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi, most of them women and children, mainly killed at Groupe Scolaire Sovu where they were led to with the promise that they will be protected.
The head of IBUKA in Rwamagana District, Musabyeyezu Dative, said that the Sovu massacres were unique in the sense that women and girls were violently raped and tortured before killing them.
After hacking them, they would pile their bodies together and burn pepper near the pile of bodies and those still alive would sneeze due to the pepper and they would make sure they are all dead.
Musabyeyezu said that the killings in Sovu were so horrific as men and boys were the first to be killed while women and girls got a promise of protection so that they can huddle together to make it easy for the killers.
It was until the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF- Inkotanyi) arrived in the area and stopped the killings but many innocent lives had been lost. Musabyeyezu also commended the government for paying attention to the plight of survivors and ensuring their wellbeing.
She however said that the challenge of trauma remains in society where many cases have been reported in the area since the start of the commemoration period. At least 120 cases were recorded, the majority of them women who encounter the history of the area.
“As years go by, we still see many cases of trauma here because many people can’t come to terms with the suffering people endured here. At least 80 percent of the trauma cases we register are women,” she added.
Rwamagana District has 11 Genocide Memorials where at least 83,729 remains of the victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi are resting. The commemoration ceremony at Sovu in Rwamagana was attended by local residents, survivors but others, as well as local government officials.
AVEGA was established in December 1994, after the Genocide against the Tutsi, but received legal status on January 15, 1995, according to its administration.
It was set up by 50 widows in Kigali to discuss the challenges they faced as widows of the Genocide and later they established branches in different parts of the country, including in Rwamagana where it is headquartered.
AVEGA was established with a mission of fostering social justice for widows of the Genocide as well as other vulnerable women, children and families affected by conflict.
It sought to improve access to healthcare, socio-economic opportunities and by enhancing gender parity, allowing members to transform and rebuild their lives.