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Rwanda genocide: I don't know how I would afford my medicine without the cooperative and ActionAid

Niyonteze Domina, 62 years old Genocide widow and mother of 6, lives alone in a small neatly decorated house of bricks with tailed roof. She sits in the doorway facing the main road of her village Agatongati while she tells her story.

"We left home and fled to the mountain when the killings started. We thought we would come back the following day, that it was not a big deal."

"Then the killers captured me. They hit me hard on my backside as we walked. At the first roadblock they also beat me in my head. I started bleeding. Someone recognised me and said I could go. But I was so badly beaten up that I had to get medical treatment. Someone else helped me. While receiving treatment I was injected. I think that’s when I contracted HIV/AIDS."

While her husband was Tutsi, Niyonteze Domina were Hutu. Not knowing where her husband and children where, she went to her parent’s home in Kibilizi to seek refugee. But soon she started to get fragmented bits of news.

"First I heard that my husband and one of our sons had been killed and thrown into a pit latrine, which the killers used as a mass grave. Later I was told that they had captured our other son as well and twisted his head 180 degrees and thrown him in the same latrine.

They thought he (my son) was dead. But after three days he managed to escape and come to my parents' home severely wounded. He recovered after we took him to the hospital.   

"After the Genocide I returned home with my remaining children. Over the coming 10 years I kept on falling sick. Finally in 2004 the doctors told me that I was HIV/AIDS positive."

Niyonteze Domina joined Abishyizehamwe Coabikigi Coooperative. It is a cooperative for mainly women living with HIV/AIDS, which ActionAid supports.

We lease land and cultivate it together. We grow mushrooms, maize, beans, onions, green peppers and potatoes. As HIV/AIDs victims it helps us getting a nutritious diet.

We also sell some of the crops in order to pay for the national health insurance Mutuel de Sante for all members and three of their family members. It cost 3000 Rwandan Francs per month per person and to pay the fees is a main priority of the cooperative.

"I don’t know how I would have been able to afford my medicine without the support of Abishyizehamwe Coabikigi Coooperative and ActionAid."

ActionAid supports Abishyizehamwe Coabikigi Coooperative and has helped the cooperative with three cows and to introduce commercial mushroom growing, which supplements the women’s diets and provides an income. The cooperative also grow, beans, onions, green peppers, potatoes, soya beans and maize and ActionAid has also supported them with seeds and a grain bank. Abishyizehamwe Coabikigi Coooperative has 15 members who are all HIV/AIDS positive. It is a main priority of Abishyizehamwe Coabikigi Coooperative to ensure the members and three of their family members coverage by Rwanda’s national health insurance Mutuel de Sante.