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Make whole what has been smashed

By Margherita Mirabella

Godelieve Mukasarasi

"In Paul Klee's Angelus Novus the angel's eyes are wide open, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. He looks as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His face is turned towards the past. He sees catastrophe, wanting to awaken the dead and make whole what has been smashed." Godelieve Mukasarasi listens to women who have been contaminated by horror, contaminated by men who destroy, by AIDS, and by ignorance.


Urunana, one monthly meeting for Sevota's women to be all together and talking about their issues, dancing and singing. Sevota: Solidarité pour l’Épanouissement des Veuves et des Orphelins visant le Travail et l’Autopromotion There are many SEVOTA women and they operate in small autonomous groups, sharing their experiences of being survivors and having suffered unspeakable violence. Together they are free to talk about themselves, to talk about what happened without shame.


“April is approaching. In my body I feel my aching wounds; the scars seem fresh and have never healed. Although there are two months to go I already feel the rain falling, its sound, its smell." It was also raining that April of twentyfour years ago when the Genocide of the Tutsis started. That is what the United Nations has decreed it will be called from now on.


Concessa has the most beautiful voice; she sings even when she is alone at home or tending to her cow. Her children are dead and so are her brothers. Everyone. It seems that her face does not want to reveal the past. Her gaze is lost in the space framed by a small window. A small window through which she dreams of the future.


In the interests of a civil society, the Rwandan government has adopted important laws aimed at safeguarding the rights of women and encouraging their empowerment. The approval of new inheritance laws in 1999 was groundbreaking; before that women were completely excluded.


“In 1996 rape was declared a first-degree crime in the Rwandan organic law classification of acts committed during the genocide. It was recognized by the United Nations in the statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda as a war crime, a crime of genocide and a crime against humanity. The Tribunal adopted the definition of rape in 1998 on the basis of evidence of the women of SEVOTA.


Forgiving does not mean forgetting. The women who survived have forgiven because "only by forgiving can you be forgiven."


Together they are free to talk about themselves, to talk about what happened without shame. Social psychotherapy, individual and group sessions, a course of active participation accomplished together to counter post-traumatic stress disorder and encourage self-esteem and social reintegration.


Agriculture is crucial to Rwanda and is the country's main source of income. Most who work the land are women: they are barefoot, the red living earth comes up to their ankles, their backs bent over in work that drives away the thought and the memories of death

Godelieve's pink dress

There is a pink dress hanging in Godlieve's bedroom. Pink is the colour that girls are destined to wear, what sets us apart from boys. It is the colour of women. In Rwanda it is also the colour of the prison uniforms of those accused of genocide who are awaiting trial.

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