SEVOTA: Expanding support to families wrecked by 1994 genocide
Written by: George Kalisa
Sunday, October 28th, 2018, 12:40
In 1998 the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha declared rape as a war crime and crime against humanity becoming the first international court to convict a person with rape charges as having committed a genocide crime since the United Nations had recognized sexual violence as a crime of war in the same year.
Also, this meant that henceforth perpetrators with rape charges belong to category one, which includes planners, killers and implementers of genocide.
This is one of SEVOTA’s milestones towards peace building and conflict resolution since Godelieve Mukasarasi founded the local non-government organization in December 1994 at Taba in Kamonyi District as a response to the devastated wellbeing of particularly genocide widows and their children. Hence, their vision is: To have a society where human dignity is valued, where men, women and children help each other for their full development.
During an exclusive interview with this reporter recently Mukasarasi paid tribute to Parliament, particularly women legislators from Kamonyi who are always supportive and made their voice heard.
“They were of great help to us when SEVOTA petitioned ICTR in 1996 before delivering witness to it in 1997 which advocacy led to the pronouncing of rape as a genocide crime by this court,” recalls Mukasarasi, “we shared our views with the women lawmakers from Kamonyi who stood with us to promote the advocacy on rape crimes until they were classified in category one of genocide crimes”.
SEVOTA, a French acronym for solidarity for blossoming of widows and orphans, whose aim before its expansion the scope of its functions was exclusively to rebuild human relationships that were destroyed by the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. They have done whatever it has taken to support social integration of women survivors and their children through strengthening their relationships alongside reducing family conflicts.
Three years ago, SEVOTA expanded their activities to include children produced as a consequence of rape during the genocide, couples and adopted children.
Several boys and girls orphaned and/or disadvantaged by the genocide have had their livelihoods improved - their future is brighter and more predictable due to SEVOTA’s commitment to complement the Rwandan government in its resolute efforts towards social transformation of Rwandans.
Apart from direct support and counselling, Mukasarasi also the Coordinator says SEVOTA promotes peace, reconciliation and unity among the beneficiaries who include victims of rape during the genocide some of whom are living with HIV.
It was against this backdrop that SEVOTA won the Annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Award of the US Department of State. The award recognizes women around the globe that have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership through advocacy for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment often at great risk and sacrifice.
Mukasarasi says that her association became more inclusive and sensitive of gender equality after President Paul Kagame championed the HeForShe to include boys and men their programmes.
SEVOTA and young generation
To create more appreciation of the need to safeguard and promote unity and reconciliation among the young generation in SEVOTA in process of peace building, Mukasarasi says:
“We regularly pay homage to the Remera Heroes Cemetery and genocide memorial sites to explain Rwanda’s bad history 24 year ago, emphasizing that patriotic Rwandans sacrificed life to realize the peace we see, and there need to uphold unity and reconciliation as key factors to avoid a repeat of the genocide,” said Mukasarasi.
They emphasize the Rwandan culture in an effort to complete government efforts to create a more cohesive and united Rwanda and the association’s philosophy is to find a sustainable solution to sexual violence and encourage prevention starting with families.
Geographical spread and growth of SEVOTA
Currently, the association brings together 115 cooperatives of widows, men, single mothers and their children – with 1, 563 members altogether.
It operates in 11 districts above their target of eight. Mukasarasi adds that their plan is to work in eight to improve service delivery, which will serve as models to the others.
Mukasarasi says there is a plan in the offing to establish their Headquarters that will help further the mobilization of the youth as part of the broad agenda to increase access to education and job opportunities.