On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying the Rwandan president was shot down, killing all onboard. This event triggered the beginning of one of the most swift and brutal genocides in world history. In the span of about 100 days, ethnic Hutus killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsi minorities, using mostly machetes and other crude weapons.
The 1994 genocide was the culmination of decades ethnic strife, driven by long-time cultural differences and ethnic divisions created by Belgian colonists. In the aftermath, some two million Hutus fled Rwanda to neighboring countries creating a refugee crisis. Continued conflict with the perpetrators of the genocide has resulted in hundreds of thousands of more deaths, mostly in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Humanity & Inclusion began working in Rwanda shortly after the end of the genocide in 1994. Between 1994 and 1996, HI provided emergency assistance to a population thrown into extreme distress. From 1996 to 2000, the situation in Rwanda was one of relative stability allowing HI to embark on longer-term initiatives, including projects to improve the living conditions of vulnerable people, particularly people living with HIV/AIDS. Since 2001, HI has broadened its activities to include community-based violence prevention, inclusive education, rehabilitation, prevention of sexual violence against children, and care for people living with epilepsy.
April 7th marks 25 years since the horrific genocide in Rwanda began. Men, women, and children were tortured, raped, and massacred over a period of three months and more than 800,000 people died. The deep scars left by this senseless violence continue to be felt today. Nearly one third of the population in Rwanda still deal with genocide-related post-traumatic stress disorder. And more than one in five people struggle with depression.
Humanity & Inclusion launched its response in Rwanda in the aftermath of the Tutsi genocide in 1994 and implemented its first mental health project in 1996, providing psychological support to children who had lost their parents. Today, our team continues to support the direct and indirect victims of the genocide. In 2018, more than 5,800 victims of violence took part in psychosocial activities to help overcome their trauma.
HI will be working with mental health professionals, including psychologists, in conjunction with the National Mental Health Coordination Committee (Rwanda Biomedical Center - RBC) during the three-month commemoration period. Our team will prepare them to manage trauma crises and assist genocide victims at memorial sites.
“The after-effects are still felt today.”
“From day to day, people tend to bury and repress genocide-related trauma,” explains Chantal Umurungi, Humanity & Inclusion’s mental health and psychosocial support advisor in Rwanda. “During the commemoration period, memories, feelings, and emotions will resurface. The victims will confront their suffering.
“For some, it’s a crushing experience. People talk about it and it’s very powerful. Some people tell us ‘I didn't sleep at all last night. I saw the people I lost again and I couldn't close my eyes. They may relive panic attacks, the loss of loved ones, and so on.
“The after-effects are still felt today. It is essential people support each other in this difficult time. It is very liberating to share feelings. Group therapy allows people to confide in each other and share their experiences: I’ve been through the same thing as you. I’ll tell you what helped me. It's life-saving.”
Supporting victims for 25 years
Since 1996, Humanity & Inclusion has supported more than 25,000 victims of violence, including genocide-related violence, and implemented more than 46,000 psychosocial support sessions. Today, HI's response takes more of a community mental health approach. Our teams coordinate listening and discussion groups, where people can express themselves with support from a psychologist or community volunteers.
Small business projects
They are then converted into self-help groups to help people set up small business projects together, with support from HI, including small vegetable shops and livestock breeding. Taking part in a joint business venture gives them dignity and independence.
“The genocide’s impact on mental health has given rise to other indirect consequences such as drug use, high-risk sexual practices, violence, and marital conflicts.” Chantal adds. “This impoverishes families and weakens social ties. By proposing this approach to community mental health, allowing people to share their feelings and rebuilding bridges, HI wants to break the vicious cycle of violence and poorer mental health.”
Photo: Olive, 50, was injured during the genocide. Sometimes she has so much pain that she can’t leave her bed. Today, she is selling fruits thanks to the rehabilitation care and economic support she receives from Humanity & Inclusion.
Violence affects one in three women in their lifetime. Globally, women with disabilities are ten times more likely to experience sexual violence. Over the next three weeks, Humanity & Inclusion will address the violence against women with disabilities at the 71st session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, organized by the United Nations in Geneva from October 22 through November 9.
25 years of work
Humanity & Inclusion implements projects to address violence in six countries around the world by raising women's awareness of their rights and helping them build self-reliance. In Rwanda, HI provides psychological support to victims of physical and sexual violence, including women, and organizes discussion groups. In Rwanda, Burundi, and Kenya, our team works to combat sexual violence against children, including children with disabilities, who are three to four times more likely to be at risk of violence.
Making it Work
HI launched the Making it Work Gender and Disability project to promote good practices in order to eliminate violence against women and girls with disabilities. The aim is to ensure that women's voices are heard and that the risks they face (violence, abuse, and exploitation) are taken into account in the projects implemented by other organizations in the fields of humanitarian action, human rights, feminism, and gender-based violence.
Gender and disability intersectionality in practice: Women and girls with disabilities addressing discrimination and violence in Africa
In June 2018, Humanity & Inclusion's Making it Work project published the report, “Gender and disability intersectionality in practice: Women and girls with disabilities addressing discrimination and violence in Africa,” which presents nine best practices for women’s organizations in six African countries. Women leaders with disabilities presented the report at the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in New York.
Humanity & Inclusion works to prevent violence based on disability, gender and age and its disabling consequences in development and fragile settings, as well as to provide holistic care for survivors of violence, exploitation and abuse. HI’s goal is to ensure that people with disabilities and other at-risk groups are less exposed to violence and can live in dignity, independently, and with control over their own lives. View the flier here.
This committee is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
 Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
Globally, 35% of women have experienced physical, emotional, or sexual violence in their lifetime. And women and girls with disabilities are nearly ten times more likely to experience sexual violence–a serious violation of their rights.
“Violence against women and girls with disabilities is invisible, poorly understood, and largely ignored,” explains Bénédicte de la Taille, Humanity & Inclusion’s protection from violence expert.
Because of social and cultural norms, women do not always have the right to choose when it comes to their sexual and reproductive lives. Moreover, women with disabilities, who are sometimes dependent on other adults in their immediate circle, are even more vulnerable. Sexual violence causes many health problems, psychological trauma, and social and economic exclusion. De la Taille adds, “Our projects are essential to enable women with disabilities to rebuild their lives, break out of their isolation, and play a role in their communities. Ending this violence is a priority.”
For more than 25 years, Humanity & Inclusion has been implementing projects to combat violence around the world including raising women's awareness of their rights and empowering them to make decisions. In Rwanda, HI has been providing psychological support to victims of physical and sexual violence and setting up discussion groups since 1994. In Rwanda, Burundi, and Kenya, our teams are working to combat sexual violence against children, including children with disabilities, who are three to four times more likely to be at risk of violence.
Making it Work
HI works with disabled people’s organizations and women's rights organizations as part of our Making it Work partnership in order to increase the visibility of innovative best practices (training women, awareness-raising activities, and so on) related to the protection of women's rights. Our aim is to ensure that women's voices are heard and that the risks they face (violence, abuse, and exploitation) are taken into account in the projects implemented by numerous organizations (humanitarian, human rights, and the fight against gender-based violence).
Handicap International’s Ubuntu Care project combats sexual violence against children, particularly children with disabilities, in Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda. Below, Regional Coordinator Sofia Hedjam describes the program and its achievements. Launched in November 2012, it has already provided care and treatment to 600 child victims of sexual violence.Read more
Anne-Clarisse, 27, is one of the many survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis being helped through Handicap International’s mental health program in Rwanda. Below, she tells her story.Read more
“The name of our group is Coeur du Ménage (Heart of the Home) because we want to be seen as wives and mothers again by our families,” says Consolée, who runs a women’s group in Nedra, Kigali, with the support of Handicap International. Many of the women in the group were widowed during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi. Some were victims of sexual violence and are HIV-positive. As part of an ongoing mental health project in Rwanda, Handicap International organizes support groups for genocide survivors and other victims of violence, abuse, or neglect.Read more
In Rwanda, Humanity & Inclusion’s goal is to support the policies and initiatives of public authorities and civil society to advance the rights of vulnerable people, particularly people with disabilities. The organization employs 67 staff members and three expatriates in Rwanda to carry out its mission.
Humanity & Inclusion launched its operations in Rwanda following the genocide of 1994. Nearly 20 years after the genocide, many individuals still suffer from extreme mental trauma as well as physical disabilities. Despite recent strong economic growth, the government lacks the resources to implement disability policies, civil society is weak, and deeply held cultural beliefs about disability, including epilepsy, make life very challenging for people with disabilities.
- Mental Health and Violence Prevention
- Inclusive Education
- Community-Based Rehabilitation
- Supporting Disabled People's Organizations
This project enables people with epilepsy to access quality health care and live normal lives within their families and communities. It also aims to raise awareness in the general Rwandan population about the condition to dispel stigma and encourage those with epilepsy or their guardians to seek appropriate health care.
Mental Health and Violence Prevention
More than twenty years after the genocide, the country still suffers from the highest level of post-traumatic stress disorder in the region. Humanity & Inclusion strengthens community-based approaches to mental health care to better support Rwandans suffering from psychological trauma. In addition, it aims to develop community-based action focused on the prevention of gender-based violence. Through this project Humanity & Inclusion does local and national advocacy to add mental health and sexual violence issues to the political agenda. These actions complement a second project that carries out awareness-raising and advocates for the strengthening of child protection processes in Rwanda, with the aim of protecting children from sexual violence.
Humanity & Inclusion supports the efforts of the Ministry of Education to develop its educational system so that it provides all children with an inclusive learning environment. Staff members train authorities and teachers, identify children with special needs not currently attending school and encourage parents to enroll them, and work to improve the accessibility of schools.
To promote the inclusion of people with disabilities, Humanity & Inclusion helps the government implement rehabilitation policies and trains health professionals and community health workers in disability issues. The organization also works to introduce occupational therapy as a rehabilitation profession. Humanity & Inclusion accomplishes this primarily by providing financial and technical support to the College of Medicine and Health Sciences (CMHS) so it can provide the necessary training.
Supporting Disabled People's Organizations
Humanity & Inclusion promotes the inclusion of Rwandan people with disabilities in society, in particular at community level. The organization offers support to disabled people’s organizations, providing them with technical and financial assistance. This enables these groups to pursue actions to promote the rights and civic participation of people with disabilities.
CURRENT PROJECTS ARE POSSIBLE THANKS TO HUMANITY & INCLUSION DONORS, AND THE FOLLOWING:
Handicap International has launched a regional project to prevent sexual violence against children with disabilities in Burundi, Rwanda, and Kenya.