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Rwanda Genocide: I never imagined it would be a close relative who would cause my children's death

It's as if Elisabeth Nyirafaranga carries a large shadow of sorrow. When she begins to tell what happened two decades ago, it becomes clear why.

"First we thought we could stay at home when the genocide against the Tutsis started, but when the roof got torn off the house and the killings and lootings only increased we realized we had to flee. My husband told me to bring the children home to my family who were Hutus and where he thought they would be safe. He took refuge in a nearby stadium.

"My sister had fled to our family home as well. She had four children and we were there with six small children when the killers came and demanded to get a cow. We thought our children would be safe at our own families home. We had never imagined that it would be a close relative of ours who would cause their death.

But it was my cousin who alerted the others and told them were we were hiding with the small children. When they came we did not have any cows to give them. They raped us instead.

"The second time they came it was worse. Again they raped us. There were many men; one man after another raped us. I was so scared about what they would do to the children.

I plead, but they had no mercy. They smashed the children’s heads. It was so brutal. My children were 9 month and 2 ½ years old.

"Since 2000 I have been a member of Buhozanye Cooperative, which ActionAid support. It’s the common work and friendship in the Cooperative that has helped me persevere. It can be hard to accept and forgive what happened and move on, but by listening to the others and hear their stories and how they have coped makes it easier.

"My husband did not survive the Genocide against the Tutsis and I got denied access to our land after both he and the children were dead. ActionAid has also helped my through a legal process to regain my land

"I am now married to my husband’s brother. We have six children together."

ActionAid has supported Buhozanye Cooperative since 2007 to advance social justice, reconciliation, women empowerment and the promotion of sustainable agriculture including training in farming techniques and an animal raring program with a pig for each family. As genocide widows many of the 12 members of Buhozanye Cooperative had lost their home and land, which traditionally belonged to the husband’s family. ActionAid has also assisted the cooperative’s members to claim their constitutionally rights to land and livelihood.