The Duhozanye Association was founded in November 1994 by a group of widows in the district of Gisagara, located in the ex-prefecture of Butare. Duhozanye, meaning “to console one another,” has now expanded its activities to cover the southern Province of the country.
The formation of the Association was inspired by Daphrose Mukarutamu who lost all her children and her husband during the 1994 Genocide. “In the aftermath of the genocide, I thought I was the only one left, but when I turned to my neighbors, I found out that they had also been equally affected.” said Daphrose.
From July 1994, these widows would meet at a specific time every week to share their common grief and mourn their loved ones. When it was time for the group to meet none would miss the opportunity of being with others. For these women who had lost everything dear to them, it was simply a relieving experience to meet and cry together. As the group grew, they decided to find a suitable name that fit their special circumstance and they chose Duhozanye which means “let us console each other,” because they were bringing emotional support to each other after such terrible experiences. On 11 November 1994, Duhozanye was officially born.
From 1994, the association grew very fast from 330 women members to reach 3,000 in 2007. After the genocide, there were many widows who were looking for emotional support especially those who had been raped and infected with HIV/AIDS. After a short while, these widows started thinking about what they could do for themselves to rebuild their lives. Then, the Association, which started with the objective of providing emotional support, expanded its activities to address socio-economic needs of its members.
Today the Association continues to help more widows, orphans and child-headed households to rebuild their homes but the needs are still overwhelming. In addition to building houses and taking care of orphans, the association provided support to women victims of rape and HIV/AIDS to cope with trauma and pull their lives together.
Fourteen years after the genocide, the strides made by Duhozanye in the political and social-economic empowerment of Rwandan women are enormous. With strong resilience, these women were able to overcome the unthinkable and to make a difference in their lives and for their country.
©2013 Duhozanye Association