Meet Godelieve Mukasarasi. Godelieve is the founder of Solidarity for the Development of Widows and Orphans to Promote Self-Sufficiency and Livelihoods (SEVOTA), an organization that promotes the socio-economic rights of Rwandans widowed and orphaned by the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Immediately following the genocide Godelieve used her background in social work to establish an organization that addresses the needs of women and children left vulnerable in the aftermath of the genocide – SEVOTA. Together with a dedicated staff, Godelieve delivers peace and reconciliation programming to mobilize widows and orphans towards a culture of peace and non-violence. SEVOTA brings together 80 associations with over 2 000 members to support genocide survivors. Godelieve also works through SEVOTA to ensure genocide sexual violence survivors receive necessary medical access – 70% of women raped during the genocide became infected with HIV/AIDS.
Godelieve lived with her husband, Emmanuel Rudasingwa, and children in the Taba commune during the genocide. During the conflict, her daughter was raped by militiamen. Godelieve and her husband became committed to seeking justice for genocide survivors. They agreed to testify before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in its inaugural case against former mayor of Taba, Jean Paul Akayesu, for his failure to protect his citizens. In 1996, prior to appearing on the stand, Rudasingwa was brutally murdered alongside Godelieve’s daughter. Godelieve believes the attackers to have been Hutu militamen.
Despite the risk to her personal safety, Godelieve has remained committed to shattering impunity for genocide perpetrators. She has been a key actor in facilitating women’s testimonies to the ICTR. Due to her efforts in bringing women’s voices to the table, Godelieve contributed to the conviction of Akaseyu in 1998. The case also concluded with a landmark legal precedent stating rape and sexual violence with the intent to destroy a particular group constitute genocide.
Godelieve is also founder of a women’s peace network, Urunana, and is also the senior co-organizer of Fora ABIYUBAKA, a group comprised of women who have children born from rape. She has received international recognition for her efforts, including the 2011 Winner of the Human Rights International Award.
Genocide survivor’s testimony, LA Times, November 11, 2011