Rape Victims in Rwanda

Background Information

The cultural tension between the Tutsi tribe, the minority tribe in Rwanda, and the Hutu tribe, the majority tribe, existed long before the genocide. During the time prior to the Rwandan genocide, the Tutsi were viewed as superior compared to the Hutus. In April of 1994 mass murder and raped occurred by the Hutus against the Tutsis. Through the use of different mediums the Hutu tribe raped thousands of women causing deep pain to a larger portion of the Tutsi population. As a result of these rape there were many undesired children that were conceived and the status of Tutsi women was degraded.

Early Thinking on Memorial Design

My Theme:

The theme of my memorial will be memory and legacy. I chose this theme because I believe it’s often hard to remember the horrible events people experienced during genocide. The memorial I create will be aimed to remind others of what the people experienced and how their experiences are a legacy.

My Subject:

The subject of my memorial will be the Rwandan Genocide having a focus on the victims of rape. I decided to focus on the rape victims of the genocide because I believe that it’s an extremely traumatizing experience, and for so many victims to have been raped speaks of the dehumanization that occurred in Rwanda.

Rwanda-Genocide-1-3          black-woman-crying


Initial Memorial Design

Description and Reasoning:

My memorial will consist of a heart made of cotton and cloth that is sewn together. It will have a broken chain around it, and a block of wood that has inscribed in it is the following, “With the experience of rape I lost my value, my dignity as a mother and a woman. I feel shamed, soiled and see myself as a different from other women. It is terrible to be raped. It is worse to be raped by the kids who were supposed to respect you. I will never forget the humiliation of being raped by the kids. It is so terrible. It is shameful” ( The Lived Experience of Genocide Rape Survivors in Rwanda). The reason I chose this is because the broken heart represents the emotional pain that Rwandan rape victims underwent during the genocide and the broken chain signifies, what is occurring today in Rwanda. Today, women are struggling to break the stigma behind rape victims, and the victims are beginning to speak out through the help of different organizations.

Memorial Design           Memorial Design-1

Materials Needed:

–       3’ x 3’ of red cloth

–       2 blocks of wood

–       Thread and Needle

–       Stuffing

–       Paint

–       Chain


Project 1            image (2)      image (3)            image (4)     image (6)


I intend to have my memorial be in the Rwandan Memorial in Kigali. I would want my memorial to be with the memorial in Kigali, because that is the largest Rwandan genocide memorial however, it only represents the lives lost during the genocide, forgetting about the rape victims who suffered as well. I believe that by having my memorial be right next to the Kigali memorial I will be able to have a much larger audience, and remove any remaining stigma that exists today.

Picture100           send_binary_mid

Kigali Genocide Memorial

Position Statement

My memorial will be the centered around the Rwandan Genocide having a focus on the victims of rape. I decided to focus on the rape victims of the genocide because I believe that it’s an extremely traumatizing experience, and for so many victims to have been raped speaks of the dehumanizationthat occurred in Rwanda. Aside from the incident itself, of being raped by different men, various women were placed in tough situations when babies were created as a result of the rape.[1] The culture that surrounds Rwandan rape victims is a very intoxicating culture. Many of these women have been distanced from the community because they can’t view themselves as a part of the community.[2]

Sadly there is not a memorial that commemorates the rape victims in Rwanda. I believe that the reasoning behind not having a memorial is that these victims did not die and in part, many of these victims are blamed for what happened to them. [3] The victims of rape during the Rwandan genocide are not seen as victims at all in many of the Rwandan communities. In contrary they are viewed as people who are unclean and don’t belong. I hope that my memorial can help to change the viewpoint about the rape victims in the Rwandan genocide.

I believe and I hope that the people, who will be impacted the most by my memorial, will be the rape victims and the greater community of Rwanda. I think that it is important to bring to light the horrors that many women had to endure as a result of the Rwandan genocide including the rapes. In “The Lived Experience of Genocide Rape Survivors in Rwanda” by Donatilla Mukamana, the author states, “The participants said no words were powerful enough to transmit the magnitude of the humiliation they experienced” (381). The victims of rape suffered and continue suffering because they are not able to receive closure, as a result of the way the Rwandan society is framed. To Rwanda a girl’s virginity is one of the most important characteristics and they will lose their virginity only after marriage. By experiencing rape, many of these women have lost a sense of identity. Through this memorial, I hope that the victims can feel a sense of security and belonging.

[1] Mukamana, Donatilla. “The Lived Experience of Genocide Rape Survivors in Rwanda.” Journal of Nursing Scholarship 40.4 (2008): 379-84. Academic Search Premier. Web. 2 May 2013

[2] Mukamana Donatilla. 379-384

[3] Mukamana, Donatilla.  379-84.

Why does it matter?

Although different organizations such as AVEGA (Association de Veuves du Genocide d’Avril) are helping women overcome their traumatic experiences of rape. Women today are still struggling to find their identity as women who have experienced rape as a result of the genocide. Through awareness of not only the Rwandan genocide deaths but also the rape victims,  memory and legacy can be insured for those who suffered as a result of the rapes. The Rwandan society currently has individuals who are facing the effects of the mass rapes on a daily basis. There are many children that were born as a result of the mass rapes and the only way the Rwandan society can heal from these atrocities is to bring them to light and remember the events as they occurred. It is also important to extend both psychological aid and medical aid to the victims, so that the victims may be able to recognize the damages that occurred and begin to heal.

Everyday Choices

Through this memorial, I hope to promote action against any sort of injustice against people. I believe that the small choices we make on a daily basis help us become good individuals. If one witnesses an injustice or a harm being done to another person no matter how big or small it is important to stand up and defy those actions. In situations where others are being hurt it is often easier to be a bystander and let things happen or join in and become a perpetrator. However, through this memorial, I hope to have others understand, that it is important to stand up to injustices and help those in need.


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