Photojournalist Kimberlee Acquaro, whose work appears on the Committee on Conscience Web site as an online exhibition, shows some of her work from five trips to Rwanda, where she interviewed and photographed Rwandan women. Joining Kimberlee is Norah Bagarinka, a Rwandan survivor of the genocide, who worked on women’s issues both before and after the genocide. She relates some her own story and discusses the challenges and triumphs of Rwandan women today.
BRIDGET CONLEY: We are pleased to have Kimberlee and Norah here with us today. We had the opportunity to work with Kimberlee on a photo essay of her pictures for an online expedition. She should us some of her photos and we immediately said, yes, we’d love to work with you. We’d always hoped to plan some time when she could come and talk about her photographs, and are very happy that she is here today. Kimberlee has an incredible passion for and concern with this story in particular: The story of what women in Rwanda suffered and how they have really triumphed afterwards.
And we are doubly honored to have Norah Bagarinka with us. We’ll learn more about her story later when she presents and talks about what happened to women during the genocide. Norah was a women’s rights activist before the genocide. She survived and continues to work on women’s issues today. And she will be giving us a much broader picture of what’s going on in Rwanda today.
Without further introduction from me, I’d like to turn the table over to Kimberlee first. And she’ll walk us through some of her photographs and you can hear some of the stories of these incredible women that she got to meet in one of the--how many trips, have you made?
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: Five.
BRIDGET CONLEY: Five trips to Rwanda. So, we will go ahead and get started, then.
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: Thank you. Just as an introduction--I made, I’m probably telling you all something that you know, but the genocide in Rwanda was ten years ago this year. And in 100 days in a country basically the size of Maryland or New Jersey, as many as 1 million and at least 800,000 people were killed. And that was at the hands of friends and neighbors; of colleagues; godparents; relatives. The methodology of the killing was particularly horrifying.
The country was left 70 percent women. And those women had not only the unbearable burden, but suddenly, out of the ashes, an incredible opportunity to change their plight and to change the fabric, the culture of Rwandan society and to dramatically alter women’s roles in the country. It is astounding just to look at anyone that survived the genocide and lost what they lost, and to see them get up in the morning, much less do what these women are doing.
Just as an example, before the genocide, boys outnumbered girls in school by nine to one. Now, boys and girls are in school in equal numbers. Before the genocide, only about six percent of the students that graduated from college in Rwanda were female. Now, as many as 50 percent of the students on Rwandan campuses are women. And before the genocide, about five percent of the government was female; now the government, the local leadership--the local government in Rwanda is 30 percent. And the parliament is nearing that number, at least 25 percent of the parliament is female. And, by contrast, the U.S. state and Senate is about 15 percent female.
Generally, in wartime, women move into some positions that are vacated by men when the men go off to fight. But as the men come back and the population equalizes, the roles--the women seem to fall back into their more traditional roles. And, yet, in Rwanda ten years later, their progress continues. This is against sort of all odds and with many obstacles and challenges. But also with the help of a government who recognized that they can’t afford to ignore what was, initially, 70 percent of their population’s contribution.
At the same time, these women have had to overcome traditional attitudes. The first lady of Rwanda, Jeanette Kagame, said to me, laws are easier to change than attitudes are. It is not just men’s attitudes, women, too, have had to realize that it’s their right, not a privilege, but their right to take part in these processes that govern their lives, the decision-making processes. And it’s difficult, as Norah can tell you more about, for women to kind of confront their own ingrained attitudes about their roles.
As much as it is an opportunity, it is a tremendous burden, because women are dealing with an unspeakable loss and grief and trauma from the genocide. They’re also dealing with abject poverty. Because so many men were killed, women lost their husbands, their brothers, their sons, their fathers. And the men were the main, if not the only, breadwinners in the family.
And women are also dealing now with the scourge of AIDS. So many of them, because they were raped during the genocide and they now have AIDS and many of them have passed it on to their children. And just now, eight to ten years later, these women are starting to die. And, so, the genocide’s death toll continues to rise, even today.
We will start with the pictures and tell you some stories. This is a picture from a memorial and it’s from a school in which 92 of the 150 school children were killed in the genocide. After the genocide, they decided to make this school a memorial. There are about 12 little buildings; little schoolrooms, all in very neat little rows, and you open the door to the first one and you see tables, just lined with the skeletal remains of bodies and they’re left as they were found; and, so, they’re in varying positions and it’s breathtakingly sad.
You think that it’s all you can bear. You see a couple, the skeleton of one wrapped around the other. Or a mother with a baby cradled in her arms; or someone with a wedding ring on or still a crucifix or parts of their clothing. Little children. And then you open the door to another and there are more. And you just keep going, another and another and another; and that’s just a tiny fraction of the people that were killed in one area in Rwanda.
Many of the memorials are in churches that were left as they were found. Thousands of people were killed in churches because it was a strategy of the genocide to encourage people to go to the churches to tell the Tutsis and moderate Hutus to go to the churches so that they could be rounded up in one place and more easily exterminated. You walk into churches full of bones, but also you see a school book; a pot that someone used to cook dinner; a bracelet; a family photograph; the things that people brought to that place, to try to sort of maintain their life and hold onto their lives. Just the remnants of the real everyday lives of these people. I’ve heard that more people were killed in churches than in any other place in Rwanda during the genocide.
The first young woman that we’ll meet is named Adelphine. When the genocide ended, she was 10 years old, she had seen her father killed by the Interahamwe in their own home. Her mother was taken away, disappeared. They learned later on that she’d been killed. Her mother left behind Adelphine, who is the oldest of five. The youngest was less than a year old and still nursing.
The children survived the genocide and were sent to an orphanage where they lived for two years until it closed. And when it closed, they had no where to go. So, Adelphine, at 12, moved her family--took her family, her four siblings--back to their village. They found their childhood home; she moved them back into their childhood home and began caring, all by herself, for her family.
She had no living male relatives to challenge her right to the home, so she was able to move into it. Because, at the time, women did not have the right to inherit their homes, their properties and even their own children if the in-laws of the family wanted them. But because she had no living male relatives to challenge her, she was able to move the family back into their home. And since then, Rwanda has legislated many women’s rights, including the inheritance law. And, so, women now have equal rights to finances, to home, to property, which is very important.
And in their lives, this young girl, who’s now 20, but since she was 12 has been raising her brothers and sisters by herself, you find these universal moments: she was teaching her youngest brother to tie his shoes.
This is the family at breakfast. Adelphine gets up; gets them all ready to go to school; she insists that they go to school, because she said her parents told her that school is the only future that you have. She had to stop school. The genocide interrupted her schooling and she couldn’t afford to go back and she couldn’t leave the children; someone had to be the mother and that was 12-year-old Adelphine.
Here, the boys are doing their homework. They learn in English, French and Kinyarwanda; English, just since the genocide ended, before, it was primarily French. And Adelphine said that she does her best to help them with their homework, but now the oldest boy has learned more than she learned in school.
Here they are bathing, they just have a spout outside of the home; but they’re just meticulous about their appearance and their care. And she makes sure, as they walk out the door, she smoothes their skirts, she says just like her mother used to do with her.
They don’t have a lot of time for leisure, but many of the neighborhood children come and congregate in Adelphine’s home and it’s really a joyful place. There are children running around and they’re raising chickens and they are digging up sweet potatoes. I asked her how she ate after the genocide ended. And she said, it was very difficult; they would go out into the fields and try to find an old abandoned field and maybe find some beans to dig up and eat that were left over. Now, Adelphine is in tailoring school and making a little bit of money from tailoring. She said she often has to miss school because she goes and carries bricks. And it’s an astounding sight. You see these young girls with stacks of bricks--1-, 2-, 3-feet high on their heads and they make, maybe, 70 cents a day to do that. She somehow has to feed her family and make sure that they get to school.
The next young woman, is Mary, FiFi, as she was affectionately known by her friends. Mary was 16 during the genocide and she went to the local Prefecture office where she hoped she would be protected. But not only was she not protected, the Interahamwe came -- led by a young man here named Shalom. This was in Butare, which is the main university town in Rwanda. The Tutsis were gathered at the Prefecture office and Shalom, who was heading the local Interahamwe came. Under the supervision of his mother, who was, at the time, the Minister of Women and Family, her name is Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, and under her supervision, picked girls to be taken and raped, over and over and over and over again. And those that resisted were killed.
Mary was taken with a bunch of girls, gang raped repeatedly; but survived the genocide. She found out, though, in about 1999 that she had AIDS. And on my last visit to Rwanda on Valentine’s Day in 2003, Mary died from AIDS. She couldn’t afford the $60 a month it takes to get the medication.
Before she died, she lived, for a while, in a little shed behind some relatives? house. But these people, because she had AIDS, wanted almost nothing to do with her. And there would be days where she would be there, alone, too sick to move and no one would come check on her, bring her food, bring her water. However, she had a friend who we’ll see in a moment, who would come and from quite far away to visit her and try to help her. They met during the genocide; they went through the same experiences. They lost their families and they became like sisters. And Chantal would come with her children and take care of Mary. Eventually, moved Mary to a home near her own so that she could be there for her and was with her until her very last breath.
You see so many women in Rwanda taking their loss and, instead of wallowing in it, using their pain to say, I don’t want other women to suffer, and giving back to other women. And before Mary moved near her friend Chantal, she told me that even though she didn’t die during the genocide, she thought that before she even died of AIDS, she would die of loneliness and sadness. But her friend Chantal saved her from that fate.
This is Mary again. A large percentage of Rwanda was and is Christian, about 85 percent and about 15 percent is Muslim. And the Muslims, during the genocide, actually protected their congregations much more than the Christians did. But Mary felt salvation, she said, in church, where she would go every day that she could get up and pray.
This is a woman, Specioze, who worked for the government. She was pregnant with her third child when she lost her husband during the genocide. Her husband actually disappeared. There is some talk that he participated in the genocide and left. But she continued raising her three children. Her youngest daughter, who she was pregnant with when her husband disappeared, often asked who was my father? Specioze said to me, I don’t know if I can answer that, even in my own heart. Not that she doesn’t know who the man is, but who is he inside? She’s uncertain, like so many people are, because during the genocide many people turned on their relatives. They may have saved one Tutsi family member and killed 20 others.
This photograph is of another woman, Liberata, who also contracted AIDS during the genocide. I think she had 16 children and only one of them survived.
This is Joseline. Joseline was 17 during the genocide. Her parents were killed, most of her brothers and sisters were killed. She survived, came back. She said she was hiding in the swamps for so long to escape death that her legs grew scales, like frogs. And when finally they couldn’t stay in the swamps anymore because they were so hungry they thought they would die of hunger. They decided to come out even though they knew there was a good chance they would be killed. When they came reached the roadside, she said it was perfectly quiet, there was not a soul around. They didn’t know it, but the country had been liberated.
So, Joseline made her way back to her village and she found nothing. She said she had families of about 100 people, but in every home she turned to, there was no one and she was told that they had all been killed.
She began putting her life back together. She met and married another young man, a survivor. And when the new Rwandan government began the local elections at the village levels, Joseline campaigned. She had only a primary school education and she was running against people who were much more educated than she was. But she was elected head of development in her village. She said that of the six people under her, some of them even have university degrees, but most of them at least have a secondary school education. Yet, she’s head of development in her village. That’s her assistant in the background.
She’s here with her husband who is a new Rwandan man. He helps take care of the children. He helps her do everything, she says, because the community’s chosen her and even if he wanted to, because they’ve chosen her, he can’t say no. And so, he’s actually very involved at home, which is, as Norah can say is very unusual for Rwandan man, even now.
And here Joseline is showing me the pictures of her family that was killed in the genocide. And this is her husband, with her youngest daughter. It’s actually wonderful to see. I have a 10-month old son, and Norah, since she’s been visiting in the United States, has seen how engaged my husband is with my son, has remarked constantly that you just don’t see that in Rwanda and how wonderful it is.
And this is Joseline’s youngest baby, Christian. She told me that she really has hope for the future. She believes that Rwanda can be a different place and that her children can grow up and she expects them to grow up to be important people in Rwanda, both the girls and the boys.
This is Chantal, who cared for Mary. Chantal has three children now; in this picture she only had two. She has since had another little boy. And Chantal was raped at the same time, by the same people who raped Mary. And she was afraid to go for the AIDS test for years and years. But, recently, Rwanda has authorized if not ordered--have they ordered the doctors?
NORAH BAGARINKA: Yes, it’s a law that every pregnant woman shall be tested.
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: Every pregnant woman is tested for the HIV virus and they’re working on also making the drugs available to pregnant mothers so they don’t pass it on to their children. So, Chantal was tested and she found out that she does not have AIDS.
think that what so many women said to me, when they were taking on all of these tasks--they’re still doing the tasks of the mother; the wife, the sister; the woman, but they’re also taking on the tasks that the men had primary responsibility for, for generations. And many of them do it. As Norah pointed out, many of them do it because they don’t have a choice, there’s no one else there to do it.
The population has equalized, it’s slightly more women than men now, but they began doing these things, putting their lives back together, taking what was left of their lives, rebuilding and taking what was left of the country, reconciling it, because they want peace. They want their children to want--to know peace. They want their children to be raised not as Hutu and Tutsi, but as brother and sister, as Rwandans.
One of the women that I met, Josephina, saw her seven children killed. They left her for dead. They threw her in the latrine and then threw the bodies of her seven daughters on top of her. Someone was running by and noticed in the latrine and it was Josephina; she was alive. And the pulled her from the latrine and she said she was drenched in the blood of her daughters; none of them lived.
She went to a shelter and lived for a while. And there, the nuns were taking care of orphans. And she met and developed a very special relationship with a little three-year-old girl, named Jane. And when she decided to leave the shelter, she decided to take Jane with her. Jane is a Hutu and the Hutus had killed her family. But she, Jane, is innocent. I said, Jane is really lucky to have you. And she said, no, I’m lucky to have Jane.
These are the kind of things that the women in Rwanda are doing; not just politically, but personally. They’re taking in orphans. Many of the women who are dying of AIDS will take in orphans from their friends who died. And when they die, their children will pass on to the next one. So, in personal ways, as well as in very important political ways, women are redefining their roles in Rwanda and changing the country.
One of the most--it’s hard to say the most impactful, but something that really moved me in Rwanda was a woman that I met named Severa. Ahe also had seven children, they were all killed in front of her. Her husband was killed in front of her. She was spared, but only to be raped for months by the Interahamwe, and then left for dead. They macheted her and they threw her in the river. She said the water washed her up on the shores and left her there. She didn’t care if she lived or died. She moved up to a house that was the home of a Hutu family, not caring what they would do to her. They took her in; they gave her something to cover herself and they said you can stay in our home. We have to go because the RPF, which is the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the Tutsi Army that ended the genocide, was coming and they had to run. She said I don’t know if they were good or bad, I don’t know what they did during the genocide, but they were kind to me and they saved me.
The RPF Army found her. She went to a shelter and about a month later discovered she was pregnant from the rapes. When you think it can’t get bad, it just gets worse. She thought she wanted to remove the child, she said, but she just couldn’t do it. She said that this child was innocent. And she had her baby, she had a little girl. She told me at first it was so difficult for me, but when she started smiling at me, I fell in love with her. They have the closest, most special relationship and she named her daughter Akimana, which means child of God.
These are the things that these women in Rwanda are doing, you know, in both big and small ways that are really, I think, the hope for this country.
BRIDGET CONLEY: If anyone wants a chance to look at the photographs more closely you can see them on our website. One of the things that first drew us to Kimberlee’s photographs was seeing the dignity of the women and how she captured them. Maybe in the question and answer, we can get a little bit more of the stories of how she went around Rwanda, how she found the women and some of those.
But we have also want to hear from Norah Bagarinka, who, as I said, is a survivor herself. And she’s going to speak more generally about the conditions that women suffered and what they’re doing now. So, Nora, please.
NORAH BAGARINKA: Thank you. As you told I’m one of the genocide survivors and sometimes I wonder why was I spared? Why did God spare me? What did I give to be alive today? Because so many powerful, intelligent women, who are mightier than me had to face death and they were not spared. But I was spared.
Later on I have realized that God had a higher purpose for me. There are other vulnerable women who are more than vulnerable than myself and we who are a bit stronger than them, I think we have had to stand up and speak for them. To be there for them. So, each woman has her own story to tell. All different stories, horrific stories.
Like what Kimberlee was telling you, each one has their own story. It is many women, if they can tell their own stories, you can’t believe it because it’s really a horrific--
You could pass many days without food. It is said that a woman can last seven days without food, but, I think we lasted more than that. You could feed on--I don’t know how they call it in the proper English, but could get, like, a little water from the grass and then mix with clay and then you feed on that so that you could survive.
At the end, I couldn’t imagine that I would be really a human being again. And I asked God, please, why can’t I die like others? Why am I alive? Because you could just escape very narrowly, you could just pass a small distance and the person behind or in front of you would be killed, there you are yourself. You don’t know why you’re spared. But I think God, as I said, had a purpose and women have come up and have challenged the problems. And we are working, we are doing great wonders.
Women now are involved in different sectors of leadership. They are from the grassroots level to the top. I was lucky to work with women organizations. I can say I was lucky to have some education that I could help my fellow women who are not educated who are vulnerable in different ways. Some are traumatized. Others, I assist are in poverty, which is a very, very high rate. But they survive as you have seen of these women in the pictures, like women go forward and they go into politics. They go into local leadership. They do different activities, like they stand in for others.
As Kimberlee was saying, most of the women were raped, because rape was used as one of the war tools. And each--women now, most of them, they live in villages; they live near to neighbors. Some women organizations have established villages. And what they do, they provide building materials and women help each other to build one--a neighbor’s house. When it’s completed, then they start on the next one.
But on the other hand, if one of the women dies, there’s no one to care for the orphans that she’s been caring for. So, what happens, the women share the children and they take care of them as their own. They continue no matter what. They know that tomorrow maybe they won’t last for a year, but we are moving. We have motivation. We want to make a change. We want to teach our children that what happened will never be done again.
There are a lot of challenges, like one of the women you saw with a small baby, Joseline, she was elected as one of the development leaders in her village. She has managed to pull all women together and they made a road, maybe 10 kilometers or 20 kilometers, with their own hands which would join all of them with a city, whereby women can take their vegetables and sell their commodities, which would be short way to go there.
Because after the war, there was no one. The Hutus had run away and most of the Tutsis were killed. So after the genocide, when she came back, it was bare and then when the Hutus came back, most of them of men were [unintelligible] or taken to prison and it was only women. So Joseline motivated all women whether they were Hutus or Tutsis, they came together and you could find, amazingly, working hand-in-hand making that road. They have now a hospital and a road through their own negotiations without men. Which is really a change.
Many women from different parts of Rwanda, they have different ways of helping one another. We have women in different sectors. As you have heard, we have some 30 percent in the parliament. We have some women who are leaders, who are leading different women’s organizations, those some who have little education, but they do whatever they can so that they can face the challenges and they can help their fellow women.
Also, women are involved in the local, local courts. We have a local court called the gacaca, which is a court in the village whereby they have help each other to solve their own problems. And the genocide perpetrators, most of them are going to be judged in that court. So,you find a big number of women have gone forward to be elected to be the judges.
I was lucky because I was working with women organizations and was one of the people helped to do the training for the judges. So, women, when I would ask of them, how do you feel, if they bring someone who has killed your family and you judge him? They say, we have to judge him accordingly, because he has to be punished for what he has done. So, women whether Hutu or Tutsi, they are ready to come forward and resolve their own cases. And I think, through that system, we hope that unitization can come forward, though it’s not easy--it’s very hard but we are trying. Thank you, very much.
BRIDGET CONLEY: I imagine there must be a lot of questions from the audience. We open the floor to you now, if you want to ask. I’m going to take advantage of being the moderator and ask the first. I wonder if either of you could speak to some of the organizations? I mean, we talked about women taking roles in leadership positions, but, also, then in local ways that women are doing it. But one of the things I wonder if either of you could speak a little bit more about are some of the ways women are also organizing into larger organizations. AVEGA of course, is a strong example, but you probably know of others, as well.
NORAH BAGARINKA: Yeah, we have others. Actually, there is a big one called Pro-Femmes Twese Hamwe. It is an umbrellas of different small women organizations. I think they are 36 organizations under Pro-Femmes Twese Hamwe and they have different ways of working. Some work on the human rights issues, others work towards to help the women who are left to doing the [unintelligible] survivors. Others work for the children’s rights. So each organization, how can I say that in English, do not compete with each other, because there are 36 major women organizations working as part of Pro-Femmes Twese Hamwe.
And there are others, more than the 36, but the 36 are the major ones, like, as I say, under Pro-Femmes Twese Hamwe. It is run as a women’s network which helps women who are victims of sexual violence. They provide counseling; they provide medicine for HIV; they provide small income generating programs for women.
There is another one called the [indecipherable], which helps basically the HIV victims by counseling, also, and by providing medicine and providing shelter. Because there’s a lot of victimization. People don’t understand, because of the culture sometimes they don’t comprehend, they think that an HIV person should be victimized, it’s her own fault why she had it. So they try to take the community and the Christian to work hand-in-hand.
There’s also [indecipherable], which is an organization which provides counseling. They have a hotline whereby, which came up very recently, whereby survivors, different survivors can phone in and putting forward their problems so they can be helped.
They work on very small scale because of problems that we have. We don’t have enough to cover for every woman around the country, but they work hand-in-hand so they can help. Actually, you find most of the organizations are in the capital city. Whereas in the villages, it’s very hard for women to come forward and maybe for testing because they fear what will happen next. The feel that, if I go for testing and I don’t get medicine, I just worry and die. And they fear that they will be stigmatized because if they know she has HIV then she will be an outcast to the community. So, you find that, in the village it needs a lot of sensitization. It needs a lot of training so that people can come forward. And, also, it needs clinics to be established today because women have to walk a long, long way to come to the clinic.
AVEGA, it’s one of the big organizations, has tried to much to help women here and there, but still it’s not enough. I think you can help me if you have some more.
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: AVEGA is probably the biggest women’s organization in Rwanda started by, run by and for women survivors of the genocide. They’re very involved politically. From the bottom to the top, they’re involved with basic care. Counseling is brand-new to Rwanda. Before the genocide, they didn’t have counseling like we have here. They had very large extended families, and that’s how you worked out your problems. But after the genocide, there was no one left; no one to turn to. Norah told me that a woman came to her just recently and said, will you help me cry? I haven’t been able to cry for ten years. And so, the women brought counseling in and started helping each other.
Severa, the woman I told you about who was raped and who had the baby and named the child Akimana, told me that the counseling is what helped her decide to keep her baby and then it’s what helped her come to terms with raising her child. And she said, when the genocide ended, she felt like a mad woman. She was so traumatized. But that through the counseling, having other women who shared the same experiences, she was able to work through it. And now, she doesn’t have nightmares; she doesn’t wake up in sweat. She, you know, doesn’t jump when she hears a machete outside in the grass. And that’s all attributed to what these women have done. They’ve created the network to replace someone that they lost.
One of the other things about the rape survivors that’s incredible is that they’re coming forward and they’re speaking about their experiences. There still is a lot of stigmatization in Rwanda. Even though these women were raped--and, like, Mary, who died of AIDS -- it was her first and only sexual experience, being raped during the genocide. She said to me that all she ever wanted was to be a wife and mother and that’s something that she would never get.
Many rapes survivors who lived and who don’t have AIDS won’t get that either, because of the stigmatization towards rape survivors. Chantal is one of the lucky ones to marry and have a husband and family. But these women are, in spite of that, they’re coming forward and they’re willing to come forward now through the gacaca courts which are prosecuting the local people who committed genocide. These women are willing to come forward and speak about their experience.
One of the things that Norah has been doing is training the judges in the court to help the women in these cases to support them. And, not only in these courts, but in the ICTR, which is the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, where the leaders of the genocide are being tried. It’s sort of like the Hague for Rwanda. AVEGA, this organization, also supports these women through that whole process.
I just want to add a footnote to Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, the woman who was the Minister of Women and Family, who ordered the rape of all of these women is now on trial at the ICTR for rape as a war crime and for genocide. And she’s the first woman ever tried for genocide or rape as a war crime and only the second person ever tried for rape as a war crime. It’s a new and very important legislation internationally. The first person to be indicted for rape as a war crime was a Rwandan mayor. That precedent has allowed this charge to go to the Hague and to other areas where war crimes are being prosecuted. And so, just an individual who committed rape isn’t prosecuted, but the leaders who allow it, who don’t stop it, who order it. And that’s very important in addressing this issue in war and women’s treatment in war.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
QUESTION: What kind of defense do they present [unintelligible]?
NORAH BAGARINKA: It’s very hard because we just have very small number of police which could go to every village to provide protection. But what some international organizations have done, they have trained the police that a few number of the police that we have in the country, they are trained to support--they’re trained how they can assess the issue. If a woman comes to them with a problem, they know how to handle it.
Before, rape, wasn’t--you wouldn’t talk about it. Men would just laugh at you and say, no way. A woman like me, how can you say you’ve been raped because you know you are--it’s normal--it’s normal. But now, people have been sensitized, they have seen now what was done. Now they have done more than what they would have done. So, security is provided by the community themselves, then if it’s beyond their control it’s when they can go for the justice or they can go for the police. Otherwise, the community are taught how to support of one another.
QUESTION: [unintelligible] explain my question--like the mayor, the woman that she was talking about--
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: Their defense in the court? I spent about two weeks at the ICTR watching the trials. And there was a kind of an astounding level of denial. Many of the defendants themselves were saying we didn’t do it. But there was, really, the level of denial that this was a genocide, even after all of the proof by the people that were on trial and by the prosecutors was shocking. Nyiramasuhuko wears a crucifix around her neck and asked to be excused from court so she can go to church. And--but there, I think--I don’t know if they believe that they didn’t do anything wrong. It’s impossible to comprehend, really.
I did want to say something about what Norah was saying about policemen. Other of the women that we spend a lot of time with--and, Norah, I met Norah on the first day that I arrived in Rwanda. And she’s worked with me on all of my work there, ever since. The police--people were terrified of the police after the genocide. Because many of the police were the ones that were committing genocide. Also for women going and telling a man that this happened -- that wasn’t going to happen. Rwanda now has many women on the police force. And they’ve found that since they’re gotten women on the police force that the reports of domestic abuse or rape, child abuse, even, have all gone up dramatically because the women feel that they can talk to the women police.
The director of the police told me that the women are already out there in the community, they are community leaders. They were community leaders, not formally, but they were the people that held the community together; that settled, you know, the little disagreements among people that others came to talk to about their problems. And so, they’re just moving into formal jobs that they already were doing in many ways, informally.
NORAH BAGARINKA: Maybe I can add on that about just recently, the women have elected, after five years, the first women structures were set in 1999, and then this year, there was a second election whereby women went forward for election. And through the women’s structures, it’s from the grassroots to the parliament, whereby women, when they are elected, they come forward and speak for other women, discuss their problems and support all speak on their behalf. Also, apart from the women’s structures, there’s another new sector which has just been established --
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: Like an ombudsman?
NORAH BAGARINKA: Yeah, I don’t know how they call it in proper English, so women are sensitized to go for that also. And a big number of them, now, they’re in that sector, whereby they try to [unintelligible] small cases, or the simple cases that happens in their village, especially like land titles, like domestic violence. So the women from the grassroots level, they resolve the problem if they can, then can take some steps. But in each sector, you find that the women lead those steps, support one another.
QUESTION: Would you describe what your life was like and what the country was like before all this began? And then I should know the answer to this because a fellow survivor [unintelligible] she can explain it to me, as well. But, also, would you say [unitelligible]
NORAH BAGARINKA: I don’t know if you want me to speak from way, way back how did the beginning of genocide?
QUESTION: I’d like you to have you go back and describe what your life was like and what the country was like before it began?
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: From a personal perspective more, maybe from your--
NORAH BAGARINKA: Maybe from my personal experience. Okay, life, I can start in maybe like 1989 or ’87. We started hearing the rumors that, okay, the Hutus and the Tutsis are going to reconcile, the Arusha Accords are going to be established and things are going to work and they’re going to share the leadership.
People believed because there were steps taken and they believed that it was going to work out. Especially the people were in the--the Tutsis who were in the country. They thought that things were going to work out. Because the government was promising or was giving big promises that negotiations are underway, the Tutsis who were outside are going to come in, they’re going to share in leadership.
But then in 1991, I was in the northern part of the country where the people were put in prison background of their tribe. Most of the Tutsis were in prison at that time. When the RPF came and opened up the prison door to release the people were inside, the killing started. We couldn’t believe it. We thought maybe this is--was like a dream--we were in a dream. Because just happened automatically and people started burning houses. Then the second thing, they started killing men. And we said, okay, women are innocent, and children won’t touch you. Then all of a sudden women are killed in the northern part of Rwanda. That was in ’91.
Then the other parts of the country it was a bit safer. I escaped narrowly to go to the other part of the country. When I was there, I couldn’t sleep. Any noise, and I would think, oh, they’re coming after me; they’re coming after me. Then, I thought I was safe, things won’t happen here.
But after three years, in 1994, then some people had run away out of the country. Then when they heard about the Arusha Accords and the President Habyarimana was going to sign, they thought, okay, it’s all right. People had come back from Burundi where they had run for a few months and from Congo.
Then there it was. Because they used and men were sensitized, it was done, you know, very slowly and the local people, the local Tutsi were innocent, they didn’t know what was happening because a few who were trained during the night, they had machetes, they had small axes, they had the sticks with nails and all of a sudden they had Habyarimana had crushed immediately, just it was like a storm, it just came up. At night, just started killing, everybody was ready. But the Tutsis didn’t know, they didn’t know it could happen like that.
Before people were innocent, they were living in harmony hand-in-hand. But some were prepared [unintelligible]. So, in my simple way, that’s how I can answer you.
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: I think one of the, what was put out by the Western media, which is what the Rwandan government wanted was that this was tribalism. Just don’t worry about us, this is tribalism, we’ve been doing this for years. Rwanda was not, is not, was not ever a tribal country. There were so many intermarriages, they’d always spoken the same language; practiced the same religion. And there’s a stereotypical Tutsi look or Hutu look, but there was so much intermarriage that you couldn’t necessarily tell who was who.
And we gobbled that up, however, in the West, because it was, you know, one more thing we didn’t have to concern ourselves about, I think.
QUESTION: [unintelligible] children [unintelligible] I’d read that a lot of children who had fled had been separated [unintelligible] I know that international organizations are attempting to reunify and trace the families and [unintelligible] and unify children with their families. I’m just wondering if the women’s organizations that you work with have been involved with this effort and do you think [unintelligible] what you know about that?
NORAH BAGARINKA: Maybe I have some information about that. Because, actually, the government wanted to abolish orphanages because they thought to do it in a proper way that it may be widows or families would be given children, like extended families. If there was no extended family, at least someone in the village would be willing to take a child. But, unfortunately there were some small children who didn’t have a hint what village they came from and who didn’t know who where they belonged. Some of the women could come up and say, okay, I’ll have that child is what she told me about that lady that Delphine who took a child that was from a Hutu family.
Actually, most of the orphanages were closed up because the government said that in order to bring up proper children, the community has to share children. But there are some still open up, but there are not as many as it was, like about six years ago.
As you said, the international organizations, like UNICEF, Save the Children, International Rescue Committee have been involved in the program of dealing with reunification. There are some complications, they claim are very hard because some of the families, they don’t have enough to support them on their own. So, it’s very hard to take in another child, another, add on when you don’t have enough for your child. But we are trying.
BRIDGET CONLEY: I heard a story when I was in Rwanda in April of a woman who thought that her child had been killed in the genocide, but she had actually been taken with a Hutu family to Congo. And she just reunited with her after ten years of thinking she had been killed. Have you heard other stories like that of reunification still going on?
NORAH BAGARINKA: Yeah, it’s still going on because there are some children even who are still in Congo and they don’t know--the parents, they don’t know about them and the children they don’t know about them. So, by chances when there is like when they invade the country sometimes, children come running back home and trying to see where they belong. So, that’s still a lot of reunification being done.
I remember the experience of one of the mayors back home who had twins. One of the twins was taken by the militia and [unintelligible] for about six months. So when they came to kill them they came and the mother left the keys there, so one was spared, the other one they didn’t know where the child had gone, they said the child was dead. But after six years, they saw someone coming from Congo with a child. They said, we took her because she was my neighbor and I didn’t want to leave her [unintelligible].
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: When I was there on my first trip, I met a woman who had had five children and she thought they were all dead. And while I was there on that trip, someone said to her, your oldest son is alive, I’ve seen him. She wouldn’t believe it because she didn’t want to get the hope up. They said, no, I’ve seen him. She wouldn’t believe it until someone told him, here’s where your mother is. He literally walked up to her door. And they were reunited after eight years.
QUESTION: I want to thank you for the beautiful photographs [unintelligible] and sharing these stories which is very touching. And I’m wondering how you look back and look forward without looking back in a way [unintelligible] and yet using the pictures to move forward--how do you do this?
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: That’s one of the things that’s remarkable to me about Rwandan women. And I think that their story isn’t just a Rwandan story, it’s very relevant globally when you look at what’s going on in the world. Dictatorships are being demolished and women’s rights are come to the forefront and these are being oppressed to some degree or liberated to some degree.
These women, and people, not just women, but the people of Rwanda, don’t want to see themselves as victims, in my experience. And that’s what moved me so much about this story and why it became so much more than a story to me. They see themselves as survivors and they wanted to take that and move forward. For me, as a journalist, you go in with the goal of being objective, you tell a story and you hope that in a larger sense it will do some good. But very, very rarely does it directly affect the people who are giving so much to you. You walk away earning your living. You’re earning your reputation, and they are left with a lot of pain and having spit out their story again and not getting much back. And that’s difficult. But you do hope and you try to explain the abstract concept that it does some good in a larger sense. Because it often does. But this one, I just couldn’t walk away from And that’s why I’ve kept going back and doing more projects.
I’m actually, not as a journalist, but personally involved in some awareness and fund-raising projects with Rwandan women because it’s become a very personal passion for me. And there’s--tomorrow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, I have a documentary film that’s being shown about these women and a few others at 5:00 o’clock, if anyone wants to talk to me afterwards, I can give you more information.
And, also, about these women’s organizations. There is a lot of different projects going on, like sister schools being set up between schools here and schools in Rwanda, just through awareness, through people learning about how the, sort of strengths and triumphs of these people and women taking this tragedy and moving forward.
In a way that’s inconceivable. Like I said, just getting up in the morning after something like this is unthinkable. And not only are they getting up, but, you know, they’re changing their world and really healing and changing their nation.
QUESTION: Maybe this is an unrelated question, just on a day-to-day basis now it’s been ten years since this terrible genocide in Rwanda, what are the kind of day-to-day relations between the Hutu and Tutsi people? Have they been able to come to some kind of reconciliation? It seems like it would be such a horrible thing to come to terms with. Like, how would you even begin to see each other as, you know, neighbors and friends and coworkers and things? I’m just curious from a personal level [unintelligible] come together?
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: Norah.
NORAH BAGARINKA: I think that most of the Rwandans now, they have become sensible. They are learning from the experience what happened and a majority they think that genocide should never happen again.
Because it was not only Tutsis that lost their lives, even the moderate Hutus died. And, at least, because as Kimberlee told you, there has been a lot of intermarriages, you could find that maybe, like, if I was married, like to a Hutu and then maybe sometimes my children would be killed by my husband’s people, or if I was a Hutu woman married to a Tutsi, my brother, my parents would kill my children. But then, you can’t, they find out that you can’t go and revenging and revenging it won’t take us anywhere. So, people have decided that enough was enough, we have to stop it. You have to live with one another.
The [unintelligible] is all the people who did, they have to be punished, but the few who are there, they have to make a change. Because that’s why gacaca courts or the local courts were established so that each one should be judged accordingly.
I can’t forget that there are some people who are extremists, there are Hutus left who are extremists who are hoping that any time they can just go back and kill, because of greed, because of other reasons. But a big number of Hutus now, they have learned from the experience because they had to run away from the country and live what they had stolen from the Tutsis thinking if we kill them we are going to get their cows or if we kill them we’re going to get their gardens, their lands, but they ended up running away, gong to Congo. And in Congo, many of them died also.
So, I think people are learning from hardships. And there’s also a program for reunification. There’s a lot of training going on; there’s a lot of sensitization, so people are learning from that. We hope that in the future that a big number of people will understand.
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: We asked that question because it’s so incomprehensible that these people could come back and literally live next door to the person who killed your child or your brother. But that’s what they’re doing and I think that the gacaca courts are meant to address that. They’ll bring someone in front of the community and ask that person to admit what they did. And other people will speak up. For example, someone will say, yes, he killed Francois, but he tried to save him and then they forced him to go back and get him and they even--he even tried to give them money so that he wouldn’t have to kill them. But they forced him to it and they said if you don’t kill him, we’ll kill your sister. Sometimes it was like that.
I went to a few of the Unity and Reconciliation meetings where they asked someone to stand up and say what they did and ask for forgiveness and it’s very powerful. And some people can’t forgive them. But a lot of people do and one woman said to me, we want the same thing for our children. You know, we want to be able to put food on our table; we want them to go to school; we want them to have a good future. And if we don’t forgive, they won’t have that future, they’ll have more of this. I am saying women, because I specifically worked with them and, although, I’m sure men are doing the same thing. They are willing to do whatever it takes just to make sure this doesn’t happen again, and the unity and the reconciliations are incredible to see.
BRIDGET CONLEY: I wanted to ask both of you, you’ve probably heard, I know, Kimberlee, you have and, Norah, you probably know, too, that the Rwandan government has been harshly criticized by a lot of different human rights organizations for, this is a post-genocidal government, for their conduct in Congo. Or for, people are saying, that the Unity and Reconciliation doesn’t go that deep; that there’s a small group of people who remain in charge of the country and that could produce problems later.
How do you respond to those charges that have been leveled against the government? Is it consistent with your experiences? And then, also, how do you balance sort of the distance that the government and that the country has come in ten years with the challenges it still faces.
NORAH BAGARINKA: Yeah that’s really a very hard question to answer because some people, like in some international bodies, really think that Rwanda rushed to Congo for other interests. Whereas, like, for instance, Rwanda is a very tiny country geographically and it’s surrounded by the militiamen who are living in those surround countries. And much like in Congo, they live in the forest and it’s very hard to press them up, but if they are not far enough, they come every now and then they come to invade the country and they find that there’s no stability.
So, what happens? They--some of the people get tired of living in the bush, living the bad life and they decide to come, they surrender. When they surrender, what happens? The government doesn’t kill them they just have to put them in the training camps whereby they are sensitized then they are brought to justice and you find that a big number, they go back to their villages and the local courts have to judge them.
At least there is, you could think that there’s some justice being done. Because, as I can say, maybe, like a hundred of my people were killed by my neighbor. And then he confesses in the prison and he is brought back home. What do I feel? I feel really bad but I don’t have the right to go and kill him in prison. I have to wait so that if he can be tried.
That is what people are doing, they’re just waiting for--the structure of courts is set up so that people can be there accordingly. Because if he killed my people, at least the other people also saw him, who knows the details, so that he has to be tried justly, not on my own feelings.
So, that’s how, it’s very tricky, but we hope that something’s coming up.
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: Establishing--trying to establish -- a democracy after generations of dictatorship and in a region that’s seething with instability under the guise of an ethnic problem when it’s really politically motivated -- not that ethnicity isn’t used and isn’t a tool in this -- is kind of two steps forward and one step back or one step forward and two steps back in sort of pushing a democracy forward. I think there are expectations of this process which are important because they guide it and they protect it that it be more, I think, pure than it is. Any criticism is important and that where this process is failing or where there’s corruption, where there’s misconduct in Congo or within their own election the first presidential election was held this year. It needs to be addressed and I think that that’s important. But it has to be addressed within the realization that the security of the country is probably the primary concern of the government.
President Kagame told me, and I think it would be expected that he would say this, but I imagine there’s a lot of truth to this, that he is going to defend his country. He’s going to protect it from another situation like this happening again, and that’s part of, at least, what the administration is dealing with. The administration is genuinely making an effort. They’ve abolished the identity cards for Hutu and Tutsi, it’s all Rwandan. They have Hutu entity leaders.
Before the genocide also the--one of the first people killed when the genocide began was a woman the female prime minister who was a moderate Hutu. And it’s not, you know, clear along ethnic lines, even during the genocide many Hutus were killed. Because they wouldn’t kill someone else or for standing up in the government or for being a moderate.
It is a very legitimate issue. There’s a lot of criticism, also, of the International Criminal Tribunal, that they are not trying this administration for war crimes in Congo or when they were coming back into Rwanda. The ICTR was set up to try genocide and they can’t actually even fulfill that mandate, they don’t have, for whatever reason, resources, efficiency, they aren’t going to be able to prosecute to even indict everyone that’s on their list who are the main architects of the genocide. This is my personal opinion. To ask them to also include other war crimes outside of genocide, I think is too broad of a scope. Maybe there should be another way, though, for dealing with those war crimes.
QUESTION: [off microphone] [unintelligible] won’t happen again, [unintelligible] lesser degree, let’s say within your lifetime.
NORAH BAGARINKA: I can’t judge a 100 percent that it will never happen again. It will depend on the citizens of Rwanda, because if they learn from the experience what happened, if they see what happened and what was destroyed, I’m sure they will have to learn from the experience. That’s what we are depending on, because the Tutsis are a minority and the Hutus are majority, so we have to live hand-in-hand. Because, otherwise, like in leadership when you go for election, people go for, they--my English is drying up--people come forward from all tribes and when--and what we do, we use a system of free and fair election where people elected a big number of people in leadership are Hutus because they’re majority, but people accept it. And provided they work within the guidelines whereby he didn’t commit genocide. So, we hope in the future from the experience--from the bad experience we’ve been through that it will be a message to many and they won’t repeat it.
But, though, we have some other extremist Hutus who want [unintelligible] who, thinks that if they come back into power, I think they won’t be better, but if they use the same way of killing them, I don’t think that will be a fair country.
QUESTION: In the slide show, Kimberlee mentioned one of the AIDS victims couldn’t get the medication that was required for $60 a month. What kind of support is available for the AIDS victims and what kind of AIDS education in the area of prevention is being done for the next generation?
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: Norah’s been specifically working with survivors of genocide and sexual violence in AIDS education and can probably speak to that.
NORAH BAGARINKA: There is a program by the[unintelligible] office, whereby, it’s I think [unintelligible] Fund?
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: Part of it, yeah.
NORAH BAGARINKA: Yeah, part of it and there is some other support and donations coming from the [unintelligible] side, like other embassies whereby they’re giving some medicine on small money, not, that some people can put in little money so that they can get medicine. But the problem is that a big number of the people, they are very poor, they don’t earn anything. And as I told you before, that people fear to come forward because they know, suppose I go for testing and I know I have it, what next? I don’t have enough money to go for medicine. I don’t have enough food, I just keep on worrying. So, that’s why people a big number of people fear, even educated people, even people who have money, sometimes they fear because of sickness [unintelligible]. But, still, there are some organizations which are trying to educate, they are trying to provide medicine on a small scale.
There’s still a big number of people who are needy. Like, as she told you that I’ve been working on a program [inaudible] domestic violence, we’ve been out in the country trying to sensitize women to come forward and report what happened to them. It’s been really kind of like a challenge because they say, okay, cultural life, sexual life, is it’s a taboo, you don’t have to say what happened to you, as a woman.
But women are willing to come forward and speak out. And they’re pleading, like some, like most of the women’s organization are led by women and they’re pleading to the international bodies to help because they could find, as we went around in the country, you are told you could walk, like 20 kilometers going to the hospital. Some of women are very weak, they are unable.
I met a woman, the one Kimberlee was talking about, who told me that she wanted me to help her crying. She wasn’t crying because she was raped--she had a mob rape, a gang rape, by soldiers and they killed her seven children and husband. She made it with one baby who was on her back in the [unintelligible]? then after some six years, the women’s organizations asked her to go for tests and she said, no, I can’t go. I asked her why. She said, I can’t go because if I go now, I know, I’ll fear, if I know I am contracted I fear and then I will die soon before my child is grown up to care for herself.
So, she waited until after ten years--after then years when she went for a checkup she found she had AIDS. And that time between we are sensitizing them she told me, I can’t go for what, to justice because I don’t know even who raped me, it was a big number of men. What I need, I just need medicine. So, she told me, please, help me to cry because I’ve never cried in these ten years because I didn’t, I tried my level best, I couldn’t, but today soon I understand, I feel that, maybe, if I cry, my sorrow will go away.
So, there is a small number of organizations and the government is trying very hard to get medicine but, still, there’s overwhelming experiences out there that really just--
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: What about AIDS education?
NORAH BAGARINKA: Okay, there is AIDS program and there is AIDS program on the radio and on the TV and through churches, through different organizations. They sensitize people. But the problem, again, that a big number are illiterate, they can’t read and write, so they have to use other tools apart from radio, apart from--they can use the radio, apart from writing, because a big number they can’t write. So, some people are using schools to go and do shows whereby people can see and make awareness other than putting radio programs but to a very small scale, as are used in all the churches.
Since the majority of Rwandans are Christians and they [unintelligible] they still trust the churches. Women who find that they get shelter through the churches. They think, that there’s no medicine, I go to place that I can have peace of mind. So, through churches some organizations are working hand-in-hand so that they can sensitize and some of the churches. Some church leaders have used it, too, every time when they go to preach, they first talk about AIDS always.
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: I found in working in several African countries, there is a bit more tolerance for people suffering from AIDS in Rwanda. I attribute that to the fact that so many of the cases of AIDS are because of the rapes during the genocide. I think that gets them a certain distance, and also the fact that because of the rapes during the genocide the women have been encouraged to come in and talk about it. And so it is talked about slightly more.
But I was told that in Rwanda before the genocide, they just referred to rape as ?marriage.? You didn’t talk about that happening to you. So, if you can imagine what it would be like to come out afterwards and to have lost everything and then have to say, this happened to me. But they are. Chantal, who was helping her friend Mary, who died of AIDS, Norah went and visited her recently before she came here to the U.S. Chantal said she knew she didn’t have AIDS from the tests. But they told her at the hospital that you have to get tested again in six months, because the tests aren’t positive. So, now, again, she was uncertain, and because she had been ill and because her husband had been ill. Her husband had told her, well, maybe you have AIDS and gave it to me. She doesn’t understand that unless she’d been sexually active or unless her husband has given it to her, and even with the education and even the people at the hospital didn’t apparently explain rightly that her rape was 10 years ago, she doesn’t need to be retested for that sexual experience. She’s afraid she may still have AIDS from being raped. So there’s a long way to go with education, but there’s a lot of effort--it impressed me that the churches were doing AIDS education.
NORAH BAGARINKA: Many people confide in church and church leaders in order to get support and help. So, some of the churches have gone forward and established women’s programs, whereby women sit together while they’re doing table-clothing or doing baskets. And through that program they share their experiences and they kind of give each other moral support. So, it’s very slow, but we hope the something can come--
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: It is also the primary issue of the first lady of Rwanda, AIDS education and getting the AIDS there, and the government’s also working with research companies and internationally to try to get the drugs there.
BRIDGET CONLEY: I believe the museum gift shop also sells some of the baskets that Rwandan women make and a portion of the proceeds go back to them. So, I’m not just plugging our shop, but it has a very distinct tie to what we’re talking about, too.
QUESTION: Are there any written texts? Do you have articles, are there any books maybe that’s going too far at the moment, but I’m sure there’s some kind of written text that we could all use [unintelligible] different ways, you know, to make the whole message known?
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: About the genocide and--
QUESTION: About the women’s situation [unintelligible] orientations, what the women are doing. I think that would be most valuable to all of us.
BRIDGET CONLEY: If you go to our Website, we have links to a couple of places where Kimberlee has stories. One was in Mother Jones, and then where else? And then the film.
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: And The New York Times magazine.
NORAH BAGARINKA: And some of the women’s organizations now have established websites, whereby you can link in and get what they are doing with it.
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: I haven’t seen much on this issue. There was a PBS Wide-Angle piece on the women in Rwanda. It was very good, such of focused around the 10th anniversary in April.
QUESTION: What is the Website again that we could go to?
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: AVEGA. It’s www.avega.rw for Rwanda. There’s also an organization called EZIBA, which works with Rwandan women. And they have really beautiful handicraft scarves and baskets and things and the money goes directly back to them.
NORAH BAGARINKA: I think there is also Rwandan Women Network, which is a small organization, but it has a website also, whereby they help rape survivors through counseling and support, giving medicine.
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: You asked for texts and books, and I’m trying to think if there’s anything specifically on this or any other articles that I’ve seen, but there’s also an organization in D.C. called Women for Women and it’s www.womenforwomen.org. And they specifically work, like on a one-on-one basis with a woman here and a woman there in Rwanda to offer assistance and also like financial assistance and, also, personal correspondence and a relationship. I can’t think off the top of my head of any texts that specifically deal with the women.
BRIDGET CONLEY: And I think Kimberlee’s work is the best journalistic approach to it. And also our colleague Elizabeth Powley, who is here, with Women Waging Peace wrote a report on the political component of women’s enfranchisement and political rights. So, you can talk with Elizabeth afterwards.
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: If you go to Holocaust Museum Website and just look under my name or Rwanda you’ll get that up and a couple of the articles are linked to there.
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: Rape during the genocide, the Gacaca is specifically dealing with the genocide, right?
NORAH BAGARINKA: It’s dealing specifically with the genocide, but recently there was--they had to establish some--a law on rape because it wasn’t there before.
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: Rape wasn’t illegal before the genocide?
NORAH BAGARINKA: I mean it wasn’t established with a law how to judge. The cases of rape, it was just this year, it’s when the law had been established and they had put in some articles. I think they have a website also for gacaca courts. So if you read the--it’s in English and French, you can read more about it and how it’s going to be done.
KIMBERLEE ACQUARO: Gacaca was a traditional village way of dealing with all crimes. And then it was--it wasn’t in practice for a while, correct, right?
NORAH BAGARINKA: It was done many years back and then sort of slid a bit. Then after the genocide, they thought of how they would judge all districts involved and they thought that that would be the best way re-establish it and to use it as a tool to resolve all of these cases. About two years ago, there was a pilot gacaca in some of the districts. And after the pilot tests, they found a sense of alliance whereby one of them was the rape cases. So, they created a law to punish the perpetrators for the rape cases had to be established and other small articles how to be.
BRIDGET CONLEY: If there aren’t any other questions. I wanted to thank all of your for coming, and remind you, please do, go visit our website, you can find Kimberlee’s photographs, some of her articles and we’ll work on getting some filling out those links to the other places where you can get more information on Rwandan women.
I want to thank both Kimberlee and Norah, very much for coming and speaking with us today. And thank you all for coming as well.