During the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis, some families were completely wiped out while others would remain with only one person or two. The pain and trauma this person would go through is another journey of life that is full of distress.
Several organizations such as SEVOTA came to their rescue; they would restore their lives and give them back the dignity and meaning of life. Some of these widows and orphans had given up life. Through therapy, reconciliation, financial support they rose back.
Although these interventions were successful, there was one social aspect that remained and was yet to further hinder total healing for the widows and orphans of 1994 Genocide against Tutsis-having families visiting these widows and orphans, exchange gifts which is a highly respected cultural norm in the Rwandan culture.
After several years of pondering, SEVOTA’s Founder and Coordinator GodelieveMukasarasi, whom God showed a vision to save the victims of rape and orphans during Genocide, came up with an initiative that would then put smiles on the faces of these widows- The Agaseke Ka Mahoro-basket of Peace.
“Some of the members don’t have families or relatives to visit them, so the basket of peace helps them not to feel detached from the society,” she said adding that it shows unity and togetherness and help the beneficiaries of the basket to feel a sense of belonging.
Accordingly, each member of the group finds something they may have and put it in the basket which is called the basket of peace and it is normally monthly.
“Women in the group come together and identify their fellow member who would not be doing well in terms of basic needs and each member put something in the basket which is mainly food stuffs and they go and visit her,” she explained.
After filling the baskets, the women then organize to move to the beneficiary’s home, towards the home, they make a line as they go singing, a sign that they are coming with peace and joy to the home. The baskets are then collected by the beneficiary,who empty’s the basket and then returned, the contents of the basket are always the secret of the beneficiary.
“That curiosity to know what is in the basket as they enter into your home is very wonderful, even when you know them, it lightens up your energy,” said Gloriose, a group member in Bugesera who benefited from the basket of peace.
During the visit, women exchange pleasantries, sing, dance and would then discuss way forward for their groups and provide solutions to emerging challenges for each member for peace to prevail.
The basket visit is done in the evening to allow women to have enough time to enjoy, share and laugh and have fun together.
The Basket of peace according to Mukasarasi brings a culture of belonging especially in the 100 days of remembering the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis where these women need a family to lean and talk to in times of distress and would into be drawn in remembering the agony that befell them.
“Am proud that I have a family to belong to, when I see my fellow women coming to visit me, it gives me hope that am not alone although I suffered and carried a lot of pain,” said Clotilda Mukashema said.
She adds, “As you see here am alone, sometimes I don’t have enough food, but am always happy because I know I have a strong family that can feel my problem, visit me and give smiles on the face.”
For the past 25 years, the basket of peace has been among the home grown solutions and has contributed towards rebuilding survivors of Genocide against Tutsis restoring broken families, peace, and reconciliation and promoting the culture of togetherness among communities.