Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rwanda: Life on the move

A 44 year old grandmother, Frida, heads the Women’s Association in Kageyo in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. She, and her whole community have recently returned from Tanzania after spending 14 years there as refugees after the Rwandan genocide. Frida says:

‘If it wasn’t for the Association Rwandaise pour le Bien-Etre Familial (ARBEF), we women would still be in the dark hole we have been in our entire lives. Being beaten by our husbands was part of our custom. In fact, it was even believed to be a sign that they cared, but now we know better.

I have seven children and four grandchildren and before ARBEF came to our community I had never heard of HIV nor family planning. When I was approached by a peer educator I was very reluctant to listen at first as I felt I would be going against my beliefs.

The peer educator talked about diseases that kill our kin. We always thought that we were victims of witchcraft when we got a sexually transmitted infection. We had never heard of HIV or AIDS. We used to think that cow’s milk could curse anyone. Now we know that most of our sisters and brothers died through ignorance.

Armed with this information, I realized that I had a lot to gain by changing my attitude. Therefore I wanted to convince my husband to also become involved. His peers had tried talking to him several times. But it was only when he started noticing the positive changes in his friends’ lives as a result of challenging the harmful beliefs and practices the community had followed that he too changed. To my delight, he began to follow the advice of the peer educators too. We both began to regularly attend the community education sessions and encouraged our children to do the same.

I am very grateful for the knowledge I have gained through the peer educators trained by ARBEF. Now we always have the strength to work hard, confident that we can afford our children’s needs as we no longer worry about unplanned pregnancies and know about HIV prevention. Without this project we would still be trapped in the dire situation we were in before returning to Rwanda.’

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