Nations of Women

Rwanda 30 Years on - Rebuilding what was once destroyed

Guest Contributor - Sabine Nkusi, Tearfund UK
Apr 15, 2024By Guest Contributor - Sabine Nkusi, Tearfund UK

We can rebuild what was once destroyed

Trigger warning; this blog contains mentions of sexual violence

“We are hiding in a basement, some people are in the “plafond” (that is what I hear), though we are deep under I can still hear the shooting, is scary, we have been here for the last 3 days, I am afraid , actually petrified, heard my best friend died with all her family, there is no one left… Most people here I don’t know who they are, we are just here together because we are hiding. We don't know if we will be alive tomorrow… God what is happening, where are you, this whole thing of tribes, I don’t even get it” SN 14 year old,

Kigali, April 94
This 14 year old is me writing in my teenage diary. I was in Rwanda during the
genocide against the Tutsi, I kept a diary of my time in Rwanda from April to early June 1994. I opened this journal for the first time in 19 years exactly in April 2014. At that time I felt ready to confront some of the feelings I had during that time - well the main feeling really I had: FEAR. Fear that I will not live to see another day, that I will not see my family, that I will be raped like the women whose bodies were scattered in the streets of Kigali. A vivid image imprinted in my mind is coming across the body of a dead woman, which showed clear evidence that she had been raped. As a 14
year old girl that image had such an impact on my life, that right there and then I made the vow that should I be lucky and live through the genocide, I would be an advocate for women’s rights, and fight alongside those who had experienced sexual violence.

Each year, Rwandans remember what happened in 1994. It has been 30 years and reflecting on what these 30 years mean as a Rwandan woman has been the result of a long process. Of recognising and accepting that what happened in my country changed the course of my life and that of every Rwandan. Accepting that though we may not all carry the physical wounds of our history, our minds …the state of our minds tells a different story. Recognising that for some (not all) in order to heal, one
has to forgive, but most importantly accepting that forgiveness does not come overnight. It is a very personal, painful but necessary process.

How do you cope as a child when you feel unloved by your mother? When you realise that you are the result of a terrible and violent event in her life? How do you cope as a mother when you ache to love your child but cannot as he/she is a reminder of that time? How do you cope as a husband when everyone whispers behind your back for staying with “damaged goods”?

shallow focus photography of books


There is a spirit of resilience amongst Rwandans, a spirit that refuses to be seen as a victim. Rwanda went through the most horrific 100 days 30 years ago, but we have rebuilt and are still rebuilding our country. One vehicle through which the country is being rebuilt is the church.
I remember visiting Rwanda in March 2014 when I first joined Tearfund’s sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) team and seeing how the church had been mobilised to support survivors of sexual violence as part of a Tearfund pilot programme implemented by the Anglican Diocese of Kigali and Gasabo. At that time, speaking with SGBV survivors and hearing their testimonies of what the church had done
made me really proud to be a Christian and working for Tearfund. The church in Rwanda had become a beacon of hope for those who felt hopeless. One survivor told me that the care she received from her church allowed her to face the world, she no longer felt shame, she was accepted and adopted into their family.

Fast forward ten years later, Tearfund’s SGBV work has expanded to more than 13 countries and we are seeing the real impact of working through the local church to restore relationships and bring about transformation. .
We live in difficult times, where there is much suffering and great need around the world. We see crisis after crisis and it is a major concern, but the example of Rwanda demonstrates that there is HOPE.

God is at work, at times we might not see it but He is working! And we must keep believing that what He has started , He will also be faithful in completing.

We're grateful to Sabine Nkusi for shairng her experiences with us and also through her work at Tearfund making a difference to women gloablly impacted by gender based violence. 

For more information about Tearfund’s SGBV work, visit