1.At “Duhozanye,” survivors ask for dialogue on aging in post-genocide Rwanda
From left to right : Panelists Eugenie Mukeshimana, Daphrose Mukarutamu and her translator, and Nahla Valji at the screening of “Duhozanye.” Photo Credit : MediaGlobal/ Madeleine Kuhns
At the United Nations on Tuesday, a screening and discussion of the documentary “Duhozanye” highlighted the continued struggle of the elderly community to survive in post-genocide Rwanda.
Organized by the Outreach Programme on the Rwanda Genocide and the United Nations and UN Women, the short film recounted the lives of the women behind the Duhozanye Association, a group founded after the 1994 Rwandan genocide as a support network for survivors, in particular widows and orphans.
“Duhozanye” is a Rwandan word meaning “let’s console one another.”
While the documentary sought to highlight women’s empowerment, speakers stressed the need for dialogue about how to care for Rwanda’s elderly survivors.
No formal care system was ever constructed by the government of Rwanda for its older citizens, panelist Eugenie Mukeshimana, the founder and executive director of the New Jersey-based Genocide Survivors Support Network, explained during the discussion. Consequently, she said, “We have an aging population that needs to be cared for in a way that we never had to do before.”
“They are almost invisible,” Mukeshimana tells MediaGlobal. “To me its really, this is really the beginning of the conversation,” she says. “I think the government and the international community.
really need to work on this, and I don’t think there is one way to solve the issue necessarily.”
Mukeshimana explained that elders in Rwanda, where the average life expectancy is around 50 years of age, were traditionally supported by relatives or close neighbors.
However, with so many family members killed in 1994, large numbers of older people—many of them women—are living in isolation and unable to care for themselves.
Long-established community networks for elders are also gone. Nearly a decade after the genocide, the neighbor-to-neighbor relationship remains “broken down,” says Mukeshimana, with survivors still living near those who participated in the killings.
“The thing is, it takes a long time for us, the survivors, to truly see. You have to convince me that you are a different from the person who killed my kids,” Mukeshimana says. “It’s going to take time until that trust can be restored fully.”