This was stated at a panel discussion organized by the ‘Commission Episcopale Justice et Paix’, CEJP (Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace), on behalf of the Catholic Church in partnership with Anglican Church in Rwanda (EAR) in the fight against domestic violence and the rise in the number of adolescent pregnancies.
The panel discussion that took place at the Saint Paul Center in Kigali, on December 4, 2020 had participants from RIB, RNP, MINEDUC, MIGEPROF, EAR, CEJP, CLADHO, Youth and other stakeholders in the project “Christian response for fight against domestic violence and abuse against Women in Rwanda ”. They realized that GBV is getting worse. In turn, they call on religious leaders and churches to step up their efforts to curb GBV in families and teenage pregnancies. In addition, “it would require the cooperation of all so that this issue can be tackled with the latest efforts,” they agreed.
Father Valens Niragire, the National Secretary of the CEJP said: “It is true that the problem is becoming an epidemic, but overcoming it requires religions and churches, the government and every Rwandan to make it one of the most important issues they have to deal with.
For the participants, regular meetings, workshops, etc. seem to be of no use but practical action is needed instead. Reverend Fidel Mugengana from EAR Gasabo says, “There are still difficulties as many people start by just saying but when it becomes to practice, they don’t make the problem their own.” According to him, the country is facing a devastative epidemic and so demands everyone to stand up.
To justify that, he says there are those who rise up and want to destroy the family, under GBV vocals. He gives the example of a single mother who urged her child into lying that she was raped by a man who was trading in his shop. Happily, the trap was in vain because in consideration of the hour on which they claimed that the child had been abused, it was revealed that the man was with his wife in their shop. “There are those who want to turn it into a way to earn money. Those are minimizing the problem. That’s why I say GBV is an epidemic,” says Reverend Mugengana.
Safari Emmanuel, national executive secretary of “Collectif Des Ligues Et Associations De Défense Des Droits De L’homme Au Rwanda ”CLADHO'(Human Rights Organization), says the needle represents a constant rise in GBV in families and the rise in the number of adolescent pregnancies. This is due to the fact that the children seem to be their own caregivers since their parents seem to be too busy. CLADHO recommends that justice should help people about providing evidence of violence, so that the perpetrator learns how to maintain and provide such evidence. “There are victims but no evidence, so it is difficult or impossible to prosecute,” Safari said.».
Some find the issue to be raised from the ground up. “That the base ecclesial communities on the behalf of the Catholic Church and the base communities, on behalf of EAR be a place where people are regularly trained to fight and curtail gender based violence in families”, suggested Alfred Karekezi, Director of the Family and Child Rights Department at the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF).
Mukandahiro jeanne d’arc from Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) reports that the highest number of child abuse cases is in Kgli town where in 2019-2020 period, there were 1046 cases in Gasabo, 356 cases in Kicukiro and 342 cases in Nyarugenge. Mukandahiro said: “The root of all the problems is in the family”. She points out unprepared and interest pursuing marriages, parents who do not have time to take care of children’s upbringing, family poverty and its consequences …
As to the Chief Inspector of Police,CIP Nzabonimba Joseph from Rwanda National Police (RNP), this issue needs to be addressed together, with everyone involved: Government entities, religions and churches, different organizations, …. but the problem starts at the grassroots level; in villages, in families … “As a community policing officer in Kigali City, there is not a single night I cannot be called due to domestic violence and the issue child abuse”, says CIP Nzabonimpa. He argues that the fact that the figures are high does not necessarily mean that the violence is on the rise, but may also be due to the fact that people are becoming more and more aware of what violence is and want to fight for their rights. “Everywhere, the tide of protectionist sentiment is flowing”, he added. However, he acknowledges that in GBV there are many tricks and that is why the fight is difficult.
The youth expressed their displeasure that they continue to be treated as beneficiaries in the matter. They think it should rather be partners in the fight against GBV. Faustine Ikaze Shimo said, “Let us be given a place in the fight against GBV and pregnancy in girls, rather than always feeling that we are the ones who are meant for it.”
What CEJP and EAR have already realized is a drop in the ocean
According to the report of CEJP, the Catholic Church and the EAR has worked together to address this issue. In 2016 an agreement of collaboration to promote peace in the family under a program “Christian Response to tackle domestic violence and abuse against Women in Rwanda” was signed by both churches.”.
Through technical committees of two parties, the Catholic Church being represented by the CEJP, activities were carried out including, among others, the establishment and support of a network of 40 trainers in the fight against GBV (20 Anglican and 20 Catholic), 200 household animators, 9 priests and 11 pastors, household advisers, 36 model couples and 30 volunteer teachers.
All these resources have been trained and equipped in teaching matters and have been connected to the public services in charge of the provision of services including for example Isange One Stop Center, the Police … decentralized structures such as the Executive Committees of Sectors, Cells and villages, family evenings, health centers ….
Their training mainly focused on the concepts of gender equality and equity, relationships. In couples, they learn the approaches of attentive listening and assistance to people affected by domestic violence (victims and perpetrators), the mechanisms put in place and the legal framework for responding to the affected case, the methodological approach based on development of close friendly relations in the development of preventive behavior against violence and reporting, if necessary.
Sylvie Uwimbabazi, Director of Cross-cutting Programs at Ministry of Education, MINEDUC, says that in the fight against GBV and premature pregnancies for girls, the ministry has developed a curriculum for teaching children about reproductive health, each child at his or her age. There are also clubs that bring children together to talk about GBV and early pregnancy. Students are assigned to a cultural session where they are taught the values and taboos of Rwandan culture.