Rwanda Genocide: 20 years on

In 1994 up to a million people in Rwanda were killed over 100 days, approximately 20 per cent of Rwanda’s population, in the genocide against the Tutsis. Twenty years on and Rwanda has made remarkable progress in coming to terms with its past, but the scars of the past remain.

Esperance Nyirahabiyambere, a 37-year-old widow and mother of three recalls:

The killers chose who they would kill according to whether we were registered as Hutus or Tutsis. The system of registration was a big challenge for me and my siblings.

"I had not turned 18 yet and I did not have an ID card as proof to show if I was a Hutu or a Tutsi. I faced so many difficulties to prove who I was and where I was coming from. Eventually I got hold of an ID stating I was Hutu."

But Esperance’s mother was in critical danger:

My father had to hide my mother in the forest, in the bushes, - all the time he shifted her. He was the one who brought her food and the only one who knew where she was.

"Even at night she could not sleep at home. Because the Hutu Interahamwe were passing by all the time to check if my mother was there. We couldn’t hide any of her family members either. Of a family of 30 only my mother survived."

Esperance survived and in 2007 she started Tuzamuragaseke Cooperative for a mixed group of 62 single mothers. ActionAid supports the Cooperative to promote reconciliation, co-existence and women empowerment as a driver for sustainable development and positive change. Apart from sharing and learning from each other experiences as single mothers, they engage in farming, which provide them with an income.

Esperance says: "I wanted to bring this special group of women together because we have common problems. We all have to provide for our families, we need security and we need others in a similar situation to share and speak with about all kind of matters from the children, unity to land rights issues."

By providing secure livelihoods for a group of women, the co-operative also helps its members come to terms with the Genocide. Esperance says:

It is important to talk about the Genocide against the Tutsis so that others understand it. We who experienced it have to share our experiences in order to prevent that it ever happens again.