The “Umucyo Nyanza” (the Light of Nyanza) women association is a group of women from both sides of the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 in Nyanza who are working together for reconciliation and development.
Bringing these women together has helped them restore their relationships with one another and improve their standards of living. It has helped them work towards peace, reconciliation, and development in their communities.
Nonviolent Communication Introduction Training with the UNWA women in Nyanza in May 2019
On May 13 and 14, a group of CRASPD staff and volunteers conducted two half days of introduction to Nonviolent Communication (NVC) for Umucyo Nyanza Women Association at their Workshop in Nyanza. The women, after reviewing common understandings of what we mean with ‘conflict’ and ‘violence’, got to know the background, basic assumptions, purposes and scope of NVC, as well as the four basic steps of honestly expressing oneself and listening to others empathically. They worked with their own everyday life experiences which helped them to understand that, while this approach seems to be simple, it may be challenging to practice it in conflict situations of daily life, when we are triggered by something someone else says or does and get angry, fearful, annoyed or frustrated. An example that one of the women brought up was a situation where another survivor who is not a member of the association confronted her about having visited, with some other group members, the husband of another member of the group who has been imprisoned under genocide charges. The other survivor was saying “how can you go and visit these prisoners who perpetrated Genocide?”, and it was hard for the woman to hear this message that she received like a criticism. In a role play with one of the facilitators, she then attempted to give herself empathy for her feelings and needs when hearing the message, and then to imagine which feelings and needs might have been alive in the other person when making the statement.
In the end of the two half days, the women said that they appreciate NVC but feel that it is challenging to apply it especially when in conflict with someone who is close to us. The second two half days where we will expand the practice opportunities for the women and explore more techniques how to deal with challenging situations are now being planned for July or August.
Umucyo Nyanza Women Visit Prisoners
Following a commitment that the members of the Umucyo Nyanza Association had made earlier, five of them went to visit two prisoners in the prison of Mpanga which is located in Nyanza District. Besides the wives of the two prisoners visited, three women who had survived the Genocide, the Assistant Coordinator of CRASPD and a Japanese exchange student who is currently doing her internship at CRASPD, were part of the visiting group.
The visit was aiming at accompanying those two members of Umucyo Nyanza to visit their husbands and also for those genocide survivors to meet with those husbands and share with them the reconciliation process in which they are going through. For this visit to happen, all members of Umucyo Nyanza contributed a small amount so that the team which went to the prison can go with something for those men they visited. One of the prisoners visited got 30 years of imprisonment and he has done 22 years already, while the other one got a life sentence. Surprisingly, the two men knew each other as fellow inmates, but they did not know that their wives are working together in the same group. The wife of one of the prisoners had explained the reason why they came to visit them and that they were members of the Umucyo Nyanza Association who are working together for reconciliation and development. She had told him that those women had informed him that women who are genocide survivors and wives of genocide perpetrators have been brought together for reconciliation and wives of perpetrators apologized on behalf of their husbands, then survivors forgave them. She explained to him that members of Umucyo Nyanza are supporting one another in different things, including attending genocide commemoration events together as a group.
The men appreciated their unity and reconciliation initiative and added that they also have sessions on unity and reconciliation in prison. One of them said that for them as perpetrators, their hearts were so remorseful and they wanted to apologize to survivors for what they did. The challenge they were facing was that they did not have a chance to meet with survivors whom they offended so that they can apologize to them, because survivors do not come to the prison for that purpose, and perpetrators cannot go out of the prison to meet with the survivors.
Asked if he will allow his wife to continue working in Umucyo Nyanza once he is released from the prison, one of the men replied that having his wife working with others in the program of reconciliation and development is something good which will help the family to live peacefully with others, and from the work of Umucyo Nyanza, she is building relationships and making friends with others. He said that “I can’t refuse her to continue, I would rather support her as much as I can and if possible, I would also love join.”
When one of the prisoners asked the women why it had taken such a long time until they came to visit them, one of the women responded that they had needed time and energy to heal first: “It takes time for a wounded heart to get healed.”
The group who visited those two prisoners, told them that apart from those 14 women who are members of Umucyo Nyanza, even their children have been included in the process of reconciliation where they meet in every school holiday since August 2017. Now they know each other, they have developed a certain relationship which is being strengthened day by day.
The prisoners were happy about the visit, because it showed that what their wives were telling them about belonging into the community and reconciliation groups is true. They asked the women to come again, and to keep asking forgiveness to other survivors on their behalf. One of them said: “Here we live a desperate life full of loneliness, apart from our families, nobody else is visiting us. But today, seeing you coming for us, showed to us that there are people who are keeping us in their hearts and wishing good things to us.”
This kind of visit will continue as the group is committed and next time, the women will visit other husbands of their co-members.
After the visit, the president of Umucyo Nyanza got a phone call from the prison in which a prison official said that the visit was highly appreciated by the prison authorities because that was the first time a reconciliation group which is made up by survivors and families of perpetrators visit prisoners and share with them reconciliation messages.
Planting flower seeds in Nyanza
On Tuesday of November 20, 2018, 21 PIASS students joined the activity of planting seeds of the new flowers in Nyanza. This activity was organized by women who are members of Umucyo Nyanza Association who started a new flower garden. It is in the objectives of the Center for Research and Action towards Sustainable Peace and Development (CRASPD), for PIASS students to be involved in different activities of the center in order for the students to be exposed to the realities of various communities in terms of reconciliation and development. In this field work, the main activities were to help in carrying manure, and planting the seeds of new flowers.
These tasks took 3 hours to complete; afterwards, students as well as members of Umucyo Nyanza Association had time to converse. The women shared what they are doing in terms of relationship building and how gardening flowers has contributed to the restoration of broken relationships from the 1994 genocide against Tutsi.
They (the women) also shared their achievements as well as the challenges they face on their journey of reconciliation.
Taking students to the field creates an opportunity for the students to learn and witness how reconciliation is taking place in the community. Members of Umucyo Nyanza Association and the PIASS students were happy to work jointly in this activity, and the students are always welcome to visit the garden or to assist in other activities that the women are involved. By planting flower seeds in November, members of Umucyo Nyanza are expecting a product in April of next year; these flowers will be used during the genocide commemoration, and they will also use some flowers to make accessories such as earrings, hairpins and various other items. This activity of gardening flowers is currently being supported by Japanese Mission Support Group.
Tailoring Training at Umucyo Nyanza – Phase II
Following two months of basic skills training in tailoring, members of Umucyo Nyanza Association have started the phase II of the training, where they are learning advanced skills.
This time, they are learning how to make different objects such as hand and back bags, and other souvenir items made by kitenge fabric.
The training will take 4 months from November 2018, and it is being held at their workshop which is located in Nyanza District, Busasamana, Sector Gahondo Cell. Members are being trained every day (Monday – Friday).
The skills that the women are gaining will help them to make some
income and become economically independent and self-reliant.
The tailoring activity is being supported by the Japanese Mission Support Group.
Commemoration Event of Umucyo Women’s Association in Nyanza
CRASPD in collaboration with the students’ PIASS Peace Club organized a Genocide commemoration day for the women in Nyanza. The activity took place at Nyanza memorial site on May 1st, 2018, in which 14 women participated. This event had the purpose of paying tribute to the victims of 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, especially to family members, friends and neighbors of some of the women of Umucyo Nyanza. Those women had the opportunity of being accompanied in the process of healing and reconciliation, and it was a good time for students and women to share experiences and learn how reconciliation is taking place at grassroots level. Many members of PIASS Peace Club participated and appreciated that this activity broadened their thoughts about the Genocide against Tutsi in 1994. Participants were from different countries such as South Sudan, DR Congo, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Japan and Germany.
The PIASS Peace Club made a video about this event where interviews with some of the women of the Umucyo women’s Association in Nyanza, as well as students from different countries in the region are documented:
Cooperative Activities of Umucyo Women’s Association:
Since 2017, the Association Umucyo Nyanza was involved in book cover making, and this year they have started to make flower accessories in addition to the book covers. All of those products are being sold and women get income from them. On 20th June, 2018, Umucyo Nyanza Association received seven sewing machines which had been purchased with support of the Japanese Mission Support Association.
Now, the women are trained to produce different items made from kitenge fabric. In June 04th, 2018, the Association rented a house which they will use as a workshop. Trainings on cooperative development workshop for the Umucyo Nyanza association and marketing as well as an introduction to Nonviolent Communication are planned for the coming months.
Visiting Kigali Genocide Memorial:
August 13 & 14, 12 children of the Umucyo Nyanza women’s Association and 3 PIASS students joined a two-day program where they visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial site, in order to learn more
about the history of the Genocide against the Tutsi. The day after the visit wa
s dedicated to sharing and reflection about what the visitors had seen in the memorial. Inputs were also given about stages of genocide, consequences of the genocide, as well as the contribution of youth in the process of peacebuilding and reconciliation in Rwanda, and a lively discussion ensued.
Nyanza Youth Workshop January 2018
CRASPD held a workshop with children of the women from Umucyo Nyanza from January 8th up to 10th, 2018 at Nyanza Peace Academy in Nyanza District.This event was a follow-up of the Youth Peacebuilding Workshop held for the same group in August 2017 (see picture of one of the activities). The group, in the end of the August workshop, decided that they would like to become a permanent group and – since they have the opportunity to meet only during school holiday times, as they are going to different Secondary Schools in the region – asked CRASPD to conduct an activity or workshop for them in every of these holiday periods.
Specific objectives of the workshop are:
- To strengthen the relationship among the young people
- To give an insight to the young people on entrepreneurship and to give them an opportunity to exchange skills
- To offer an opportunity to PIASS students to participate in activities at the grassroots’ level
Main topics of this workshop were:
- Learn how to find friends,
- Teaching what they know to each other.
Nyanza Youth Peacebuilding Workshop August 2017
Upon a suggestion of the Umucyo Nyanza group of women, a peace building workshop was conducted to introduce their children to peace building approaches, thereby facilitating dialogue between these young people, so that they can dissolve mutual stereotypes and build the basis for a peaceful coexistence in their community. The workshop was held with 16 participants for 3 full days, August 7 – 9, 2017, in Kinyarwanda, in the hall of Nyanza Peace Academy.
On flip chart papers, different aspects and elements of the workshop were written (in Kinyarwanda) and symbols to show the level of participants’ satisfaction with this aspect or element of the workshop were arranged to mark them. Participants also had space and were encouraged to add their comments, especially on what could be done better next time in a workshop like this.
Their ratings were as follows:
• Place/ venue: 4 moderately satisfied, 4 totally satisfied
• Food: 5 moderately satisfied, 6 totally satisfied
• Facilitation/ methods: 2 moderately, 9 totally atisfied
• Content/ topics: 1 moderately, 9 totally satisfied
• Overall: 10 totally satisfied
Comments they wrote on the evaluation flip chart paper:
• I’m appreciating how the workshop was done and I wish them to come back again to build our good future
• I want to come back again
• I ask all of us to come to participate or share ideas with others
Ratings for Exercises:
• Arm wrestling exercise: 9 totally satisfied
• Conflict Brainstorming: 1 moderately satisfied, 8 totally satisfied
• Groups on conflict experiences: 7 totally satisfied
• Struggle Lines: 8 totally satisfied
• Violence Barometer: 9 totally satisfied
• Managing Anger: 5 moderately satisfied, 8 totally satisfied
• Listening exercise: 12 x totally satisfied
• Secret spot exercise: 11 totally satisfied,
• Trust Walk exercise : 8 totally satisfied
• Forum Theater: 10 totally satisfied
• Friendship; 10 totally satisfied
• Affirmation Posters: 11 totally satisfied
On participants’ request, the workshop was closed with a word of prayer, and its conclusion celebrated with music and dance.