In December 2013, Honorine Uwababyeyi started Hope and Peace Foundation, an organisation that brings together over 418 people under three categories; Women who were raped during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, children born out of rape and children of Genocide perpetrators.
A survivor of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, 30-year-old Uwababyeyi says she started the foundation with an objective to create a platform where people in the above categories could find healing and acceptance of their circumstances.
She holds a bachelors degree in psychology and says counseling is key to the activities the foundation does.
“I too found it difficult to forgive and accept what the Genocide took from me. But, eventually, I let go of my anger.
Hope and Peace foundation is my effort to help fellow survivors and youth embark on the hard road to healing and forgiveness,” she said.
“After the Genocide, we as young people who lived through the genocide or were born from it have led lives for which we have no fault. There are children born as a result of rape or those whose parents carried out Genocide. They are victims of circumstance. I decided that there was something tangible I could do to ensure that these young people live with dignity and stop being victims of a history for which they are entirely innocent,” she said.
Uwababyeyi says the journey to start the foundation was difficult but very fulfilling nonetheless. She says the foundation is growing and people have started approaching it for counseling. The foundation approaches people through umuganda and other social activities.
“When you have a dream, the first and best help one can receive is someone who listens and understands.
When I explained to people my desire to unite all these different categories of people under one wing to foster discussion and find strength and solutions within ourselves, I received positive feedback. People understood that this would be the beginning of a great journey towards healing and reconciliation among the youth”.
She says one of the biggest challenges she has faced to date is inadequate financial support and lack of office space for operation.
“I started the foundation using my salary but I don’t have a job now. However, I am determined to make it work and there are many good people who contribute funds when we have events or projects,” she said.
“Nyakabanda sector has given us office space where we meet for discussion but there’s still a need for a private place where we can conduct personal counseling where people feel comfortable enough to open up,” she added.
Uwababyeyi adds that she has received support from the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) and through it she organised a four-day workshop called ‘Turi umwe training’.
It united people from the three categories and engaged them in various counseling sessions and discussions aimed at educating them about the history of Rwanda and what led to their circumstances.
“From my experience there is a great need to continue empowering the youth especially the young people in the above categories. Genocide ideology is still alive especially among the young people. To achieve the Rwanda we want, we cannot allow genocide ideology to ever take root,” she said.
Victims speak out
21-year-old Angelique Uwase, a member of the foundation was born out of rape during the Genocide.
She says being part of the foundation has helped her come to terms with the circumstances of her birth and isn’t traumatised by words that people tell her anymore.
“When my mother finally told me that I was born out of rape, I was horrified. I knew that there was a difference in the way my extended family treated me compared to my other siblings. They told me things that negatively marked my childhood,” she said.
“I have accepted my circumstances and that has made me stronger. I urge other young people who were conceived in the same manner to be open to dialogue and self acceptance. We are innocent and not to blame for those atrocities. We have a role to play in the development of our country,” Uwase added.
27-year-old Gerardine Uwamahoro who is also part of the foundation is the daughter of a Genocide perpetrator currently behind bars.
“My father was arrested in 2006 and life after that was never the same. My neighbours and fellow students taunted me often because I came from a family of Genocide perpetrators. It was a terrible and shameful experience,” she said.
“I attended the workshop organised by the foundation and it was an eye opener for me. I learned the history of my country and the importance of unity and power of youth towards its reconstruction and development,” Uwamahoro added.
Marie Jose Mukankusi, 54, is a survivor and victim of rape in the Genocide.
She says joining the foundation was the first step towards forgiveness and overcoming bitter memories that have traumatised and haunted her for years.
“I lost my right eye when a grenade was thrown where I lived. I lay with corpses for many days. One of the killers whose advances I had rejected in the past found me still breathing as they separated the dead and the living. He took me and declared me his wife. It is through that rape that my son was born,” she said.
Mukankusi was later rescued by RPF soldiers and is only survivor of her entire family.
“Healing and forgiveness has not come easy. It was a conscious decision to receive peace of mind. Now, I feel secure and my son knows the truth and is at peace with it,” she added.
She says she feels saddened when she hears that some people deny that Genocide against the Tutsi happened.
“Have they not heard testimonies from survivors like me?
For other women who suffered the same fate as I did I want to tell them that there is healing in acceptance and strength in forgiveness.”