Rebuilding Hope in Rwanda

Article Date

21 February 2012

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

In 1994, Rwanda experienced a genocide that left 1 million dead and 3 million as refugees. Further, militia youth and military men used mass rape and sexual and gender-based violence (GBV) as weapons of war, leaving tens of thousands of women infected with HIV.

When the genocide ended, many of these women were left with nothing — their husbands and children had been killed, their homes taken or burned, their communities torn apart, and their health compromised. Access to medical care and counseling was nearly non-existent immediately after the war. Some women who had had families, homes and perhaps jobs just months before the war, slept on the street, while others found abandoned housing. These women were left to pick up the pieces, care for surviving children, and cope with the psychological trauma of loss and violence entirely on their own. Their bodies had been violated, and they felt alone in the world, which, they later said, had destroyed their spirits.

Soon after the genocide ended, seven women survivors came together in the capital of Kigali to share their experiences of violence and loss, and to provide each other with the emotional support they so badly needed. This eventually evolved into the Polyclinic of Hope Care and Treatment Project which helps Rwandan women cope with the combined after-effects of the genocide.  

Although HIV prevalence in Rwanda is low compared to many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the rate among women is about 30 percent higher than that of men. And even though the genocide ended nearly two decades ago, gender-based violence is still dangerously common, with 31 percent of women reporting having experienced it since the age of 15.

The Polyclinic of Hope umbrella program provides a diversified package for women and their children, from vocational training and shelter in a newly constructed community called the Village of Hope, to post-conflict counseling and a range of HIV and AIDS treatment services. Read the full case study, “Rebuilding Hope: Polyclinic of Hope Care and Treatment Project,” to learn more about the program and the women survivors it is helping.

Previous case study: “Women First in Mozambique”