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Liberata’s new dawn after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi

Mukamana poses for a photo besides her kraal ready to feed her cattle

ActionAid Rwanda intervenes in Liberata’s struggle for a better life….

Liberata Mukamana is 44 years old and a mother of five children. She lives with her grand child too, and another mother and her child, who she took in because they had nowhere to stay. She got married in after dropping out of school because she had gotten pregnant out of rape. She is one of the thousands of Genocide survivors supported by ActionAid, in Rwanda. Liberata is a Genocide survivor who suffered a lot of abuse and horrifying experience.

Raped by over six men during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.When the Genocide started, she was 19 years old. It was the most excruciating period of her life, she said. She was raped countless times by several men. There’s a time over six men raped her at the same time, one right after the other.

 “I was raped by over six men, one after the other, during the Genocide. I had several kinds of violence including sexual violence, many times. My mother was raped too, and pieces of head cut off as she struggled to keep alive. Later we found her dumped among other corpses and they had even raped her from a church. I witnessed and experienced unspeakable violence that left me traumatized. Images and flash backs keep coming back to me. I was left so bruised but couldn’t find help. I crawled trying to escape. And then I knocked at a random door and a man I didn’t know helped me. It was tough, it’s an experience I can hardly describe,” Liberata narrated.

During this period, she lost many of her family members who were also killed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis. Those who killed them where their neighbors. Later they asked for forgiveness and she gradually forgave them much as it was hard for her.

Because of this appalling experience, I used to suffer from consistent headaches for over a year. I would receive medication from a psychiatric hospital called Ndera. Whenever I get the flash backs or stressful moments, the headaches come back.

In the year 1998, a few years after the Genocide, she got married to her husband. Her husband, who was also abusive then refused her from resuming school and would stop her from interacting with other people because he was afraid other men would take her. She would always just keep to herself in her home and never meeting up with other women or making friends, because her husband wouldn’t let her. And yet, she had to do all the work too since her husband, lives with a disability. She had to learn how to juggle all the work alone including fetching water, collecting firewood, taking care of the children and all other home chores. It was not easy to juggle all that on her own while lacking skills to even engage in any productive work where she could earn a living. Life still felt worthless for her.

Years later, fellow women in her community started to visit her and urging her to join them and even take part in community meeting because she had brilliant ideas.  

ActionAid Rwanda intervenes in Liberata’s struggle for a better life….

Liberata’s husband moved to town and was no longer living with her. She used that as an opportunity to engage with other women and join their groups. When she joined the group, ActionAid Rwanda started empowering them with knowledge on human & women rights, Gender Based Violence and equipped them with skills to enable them to engage in income generating skills.  Through the trainings, she gained knowledge and confidence and her life changed. She joined leadership positions in her community.

Today she is a leader at several levels in her community. She is a representative in her cell in in charge of elections and voting for leaders. She’s also the head in charge of all leadership and empowerment groups in her sector area.   

“After ActionAid empowered us with skills, I felt like I too have a role to play in my community. I was slowly recovering from all the heartache brought about by the Genocide, but I picked the pieces up and started to live a life of purpose. I established a group of women who lost their husbands during the Genocide and the Survivors too. I brought them together, so we could come together and do something for ourselves,” Liberata stated. 

Before, she couldn’t speak out, her self-esteem was low but she’s now a role model and inspiration to other women in her community. She’s helping with improving livelihoods of other people especially women and girls in her society.

“Many people in my community leave in abject poverty. Many of them where sleeping on grass because they couldn’t afford mattresses. They would go pick grasses from the bushes and sleep on it for a little comfort-I wanted this situation to change. As a cooperative we bought proper mattresses for 54 families that didn’t have and members of our cooperative, ” she added.

Liberata is a member of a cooperative with 30 other women, that receive trainings, empowerment and other forms of support from ActionAid Rwanda.

“A day isn’t enough for me to describe how ActionAid supported me and other women who are survivors of the Genocide. Our lives have greatly changed. I managed to save and bought a piece of land on my own. I was able to build a three-bedroom house, I have my own garden, pay school tuition for my children and meet all their needs. ActionAid also gave me a cow and a water talk. Now I have access to clean water and fertilizers for my garden,” she concluded.

Liberata is one of around 1000 genocide survivors supported by ActionAid Rwanda. Today she travels to participate in regional meetings, representing other women. Despite having experienced all the trauma during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, her life has been transformed.