Berkeleyan: A newspaper for faculty and staff at UC Berkeley
Berkeleyan Home Search Berkeleyan Berkeleyan Archive UCB News UCB Calendar

 Stories for April 1, 1998:

Mukansinga Aids Rwandan Survivors

by D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs
posted Apr. 1, 1998

Beatrice Mukansinga escaped the genocide in her native Rwanda in 1994 because she was in Kenya with her husband. But she could not escape the massacre’s impact – her parents and five brothers were killed.

“After the massacre, I tried to forget about my country and do other things, but eventually I knew I must go back,” said Mukansinga, who spoke on campus March 17 as a guest of Berkeley’s Human Rights Center.

She returned to a ravaged nation whose throngs of desperate survivors included thousands of orphaned children and went to work for a foundation that cared for and placed orphans in foster homes.

One day, a woman came with her child asking for help. When Mukansinga told the woman that the foundation only helped orphans, she said she’d abandon her child right there.

“The woman said her baby would be better off as an orphan with this organization because she had nothing left to offer the child,” said Mukansinga.

The experience made Mukansinga realize that children would be readily abandoned if something wasn’t done to help mothers in Rwanda.

She organized a group of 16 women and they began to meet regularly to talk, cry, and sing as part of their healing process. Mukansinga named the group Mbwira Ndumva, which means “speak, I am listening.”

Since its inception, Mbwira Ndumva has aided hundreds of women and children by providing trauma counseling, medical assistance, shelter, food, education and job training.

Perhaps the most helpful service is group talk sessions.

“It is important for women to talk about the genocide; it helps them cope and heal. I thought I had a bad story, but I realized that others had more terrible things happen to them and they need to get that out,” said Mukansinga.

In addition to torture and the death of family members, many women carry the added burden of rape. Because children born as a result of rape are more frequently abandoned, Mukansinga encourages mothers in her group to love these children as innocent casualties of war.

Mukansinga’s work in Rwanda brought her Amnesty International’s second-annual Ginetta Sagan Fund Award March 18 for outstanding contributions to the human rights of women and children.

Donations to Mukansinga’s organization can be mailed to Mbwira Ndumva Initiative, Head of Women Department, P.O. Box 2507, Kigali, Rwanda..

[ Back to top ]

UCB Home
Copyright 1998, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
Comments? E-mail