Rwanda is a country battling to emerge from the shadow of its recent history. Over 100 days in 1994, almost a million members of the Tutsi ethnic group, along with moderate Hutus, were killed by Hutu extremists: a systematic attempt to wipe out the Rwandan Tutsis altogether.
The government responsible for planning and inciting the killing was ousted at the end of this period, but the process of reconciliation between genocide perpetrators and survivors will take far longer to achieve.
Since 1994, Rwanda has taken impressive steps in tackling poverty, with notable gains in areas such as education and women’s rights. However, many of the country’s 11 million residents still live in severe poverty, nearly 20% of the country’s children are at risk of malnutrition; and restrictions on civil society and free expression continue to limit the ability of ordinary citizens to influence their governments.
Christian Aid’s programme in Rwanda was started to address the needs of the country in the immediate aftermath of the genocide, providing support for people trying to rebuild their lives, without homes, families and livelihoods; and giving help to those who had contracted HIV, often as a result of rape.
Two decades on, our work broadened to tackle Rwanda’s changing climate and to encompass governance and advocacy projects that work to lay the foundations for a society where all Rwandans participate in the decision making process.
• Rwanda Rural Rehabilitation Initiative is an organisation founded with the aim of improving the lives of poor rural communities. People are provided with agricultural training, seeds and tools so that they are able to feed themselves and their families.
• RWANERELA+ (Rwanda Network of Religious Leaders) is an organisation that enlists religious leaders in the battle against HIV, encouraging them to talk openly about the virus – including their own status – and to challenge the stigma that surrounds it.
• Rwandan Civil Society Platform engages in policy and advocacy work with the aim of giving all citizens a say in how the country develops. Notable successes include an agreement with the Rwandan government which means that the annual budget is now shared with civil society for their views before being debated in parliament.
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Rwanda eyewitness: how training is providing food
Where we work: Christian Aid in Africa
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