What does it take to respond to violence against women and girls in armed conflict in a holistic way that acknowledges women’s own agency to heal, and assures that rights to health, justice and are met? The Rwanda Women’s Network an AIR Steering Committee member, documents their experiences of responding to the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and the establishment of the groundbreaking Polyclinic of Hope.
In A Journey of Recovery: The Experience of the Polyclinic of Hope Women, the Rwanda Women’s Network (RWN) describe their model:
The RWN under the PoH [Polyclinic of Hope] program emphasized a holistic approach towards addressing the health needs of the women through socio-economic, legal, and human rights empowerment. For RWN it is not merely a responsibility to protect, but to empower women to their own dignity and protection, as it strives to reach out to victims and survivors of SGBV locally and regionally.
The documentation outlines the process of planting and harvesting healing and justice for women survivors of the genocide. With an urgent need for action and long-term commitment for change, Rwanda Women’s Network began by preparing the ground for action– raising public awareness and challenging the silence around sexual violence to enable survivors to come forward. They started breaking the ground of healing by establishing the Polyclinic of Hope, welcoming in women who had heard about the program through the awareness raising campaign, or who were mobilized by other survivors to come forward for care and treatment. The Polyclinic offered services to meet women’s medical, social, legal, economic and justice. The harvest came in seeing women able to live productive and sustainable lives:
Metaphorically no fruit would be born unless a seed had to change in order to flower. The seed part of the women are their individual and collective experiences during the genocide and their traumatised selves. However by overcoming the anger, pain, shame, guilt, fear, hatred and apprehension, by accepting and willing to try to move on beyond that pain and sense of hopelessness, their pain has borne fruit. This is the harvest …
A Journey of Recovery: The Experience of the Polyclinic of Hope Women was produced as part of AIR’s Generate and Build programming. Read the full text of in the AIR Resource Library here.