Thursday, February 24, 2011

A little background

Less than two decades ago the world watched as genocide unfolded in Rwanda. In less than 100 days almost 800,000 thousand Tutsis and Hutu moderates were killed by the Rwandan Military and Hutu militia groups. Mass murders, as well as rape, were strategically used to devastate Rwandan society. It is estimated that almost all females who survived the genocide were victims of rape. Not only did the effects of this sexual violence impact individuals and communities directly, generations not present for the genocide now battle the indelible stigma of rape and mass murder.

In the wake of the atrocities that took place in 1994, Rwandans have found ways to cope with the all too recent violence, but there is still much healing to be done. As Spark Microgrants continues its projects and facilitates community building in Rwanda, it is confronted with the lasting effects the genocide has created in Rwandan society.

As a member of Spark, one of the issues I find important to address is the lack of women in leadership roles within their own communities. There are many factors that have led to a disparity, based on gender, of power in the public sphere; though this result is not simple to address, it is something that should be brought into balance.


  1. Hi Everyone,

    Christine and I are advocates reporting from Vermont where we're working to raise funds to travel to Kigali and contribute to future projects over the summer. Though it won’t be until June that we’re matched with grant projects, we’re very eager to learn more details from both advocates and community members about what’s going on on the ground and to spread the word about Spark.

    Specifically, Christine and I have been talking a lot about issues of gender inequality in patriarchal communities -especially those still recovering from the atrocities of 1994, as Christine wrote about above- where women lack the resources or information to know their rights, to voice their opinions, or to earn economic self-reliance. Sasha pointed out that one way of changing this paradigm may be to place more women in more leadership roles -particularly as Spark facilitators, as all of the organization’s facilitators currently are men. We hope to be working to put local women in positions of power in the future, and for now would love for this blog to be a resource for discussion on thoughts, ideas, and opinions about women’s roles in Rwandan and Ugandan society and how best to address issues of sexism or feelings of inequality.


    Annie Whalen

  2. Hey Christine and Annie, thanks for this post and the links. It's a big issue but certainly an important one, and hopefully you will make a meaningful contribution through your efforts. It makes sense that empowering women in their communities is one piece in the puzzle in terms of addressing social stigma and other issues in the aftermath of that conflict.

    Not sure if you will end up working on any HIV-related projects, but from a public health angle, there is some good social epidemiology work on the use of rape as a tactic and spread of HIV in the region. A lot of it is pretty dry, but maybe that's not so bad when you're dealing with such an emotional issue. Here's something that might come in handy:

    "Conflict and HIV: A framework for risk assessment to prevent HIV in conflict-affected settings in Africa"