Jonas Sinzabashobora’s family once lived peacefully, always working together for a common goal to develop. Sinzabashobora and his wife Consolate Nyirahabimana did everything possible to ensure harmony at home.
The youthful couple begot four children.
However, the harmony was disrupted 10 years ago and the couple had parted ways. Sinzabashobora deserted home to cohabit with another woman in the neighbourhood.
Since then, the family always lived unhappy life; domestic conflicts almost becoming synonymous with them.
“I am the one to blame for the conflict as I left the family to live with another wife,” says Sinzabashobora.
“I could not support the family in whatever way, I was a problem instead. I spent almost two years away from my family. I could spend the little money I worked for on the new wife I lived with,” he told Saturday Times as he joined village members in evening parents’ forum recently.
“Even before I left home, I was so aggressive as a result of drunkenness, we often quarreled and fought with my wife. Our family was hardly happy, it affected our lives and our children were neglected,” he narrated.
Sinzabashobora adds that they could not work together for the good of family, leading to derailed development.
It was not until the beginning of this year that the family started reuniting; thanks to parents’ evening forum, commonly known as Umugoroba w’Ababyeyi.
A resident of Kabarora Cell in Rugerero Sector, Rubavu District, Sinzabashobora says that when members of the community who head the forum’s committee visited their home, they counselled them that the issues that divided their family could be addressed.
“They talked to us on different occasions and offered counseling to us. They also advised us to participate in evening forums for parents. Since then, I started transformational journey,” says Sinzabashobora.
“I realised I was the problem to my family and decided to end ties with the woman I cohabited with to return home. I apologised to my wife and children, committing to be a responsible father again. I am grateful that the parents’ forum helped me fully transform,” he added.
Parent’s evening forums happen once a week in all villages across the country, where elders come together to deliberate on various community issues, from security to socio-economic and cultural issues.
In the Rwandan traditional set up, this was initially an all-women ‘club’ where they sat after the day’s chores to deliberate on social and family issues. The practice was adopted as a national policy due to its impact as a home-grown solution in addressing a range of community issues.
It started in 2010 but was officially launched in 2013 at national level.
According to Rubavu residents, thanks to Umugoroba w’Ababyeyi, they consider a man as a pillar of the family and woman as the heart of society.
It is thanks to this programme that Sinzabashobora’s family is happy now and can bear witness in public that they got reunited.
“Now we live in harmony again, we work together and can sit and discuss what we can do to develop our family. I always regret the time I spent outside of my family as I benefited nothing from there. I am optimistic that our lives will be better and no domestic violence will be heard in our family again,” says Sinzabashobora.
Nyirahabimana, wife to Sinzabashobora, says she was relieved by Umugoroba w’Ababyeyi as it has helped her reunite with a husband she had almost lost hope of living with.
“I was not safe, I was always terrified as my husband had become dangerous. I was battered several times. Besides, I worked alone and could not feed the family, my husband always came home late and drunk, which made him violent,” says Nyirahabimana.
“I am thankful that now we are a happy family. We can now share everything and discuss family issues together unlike before. We would not have mended our relations hadn’t it been for Umugoroba w’Ababyeyi. Now I am hopeful that life will keep improving,” she adds.
According to Ésperance Nyirasafari, the minister for gender and family promotion, Umugoroba w’Ababyeyi is one of homegrown solutions that are helping families not only to reunite but also to address other issues affecting them and help communities chart ways to boost livelihood.
“We all know that family is the foundation of all and nobody wishes to live in a mess, family can’t develop when they live in constant wrangles. We need to avoid what can ruin our families,” she said, adding that family wrangles lead to various negative effects and affects innocent children.
Figures from Police show that at least 142 people, including 78 women, died as a result of domestic violence last year.
The number of assaults in the same year was 558 with females being the most affected as they total 377, while their males counterparts were 179.