In Rwanda, centre provides a refuge for victims of domestic violence


UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Rwanda/2010/Williams
Dr Oreste Tuganeyezu outside the Isange One Stop Centre in Kigali, Rwanda.

By Alexandra Williams

KIGALI, Rwanda, 15 February 2011 – For 17 years Mary was married to a man who emotionally and physically abused her. She first came to the Isange One Stop Centre in October of 2009, after having been recently beaten by her husband and left with a badly broken arm. At the time, she was so traumatized she could not speak, but now at 32, buouyed by the love of her four children and essential support from the centre, she is doing decidedly better.

Set up in July 2009 by UNICEF, UNIFEM, UNFPA and other partners, the Isange One Stop Centre – which means “Feel welcome” in Kinyarwanda – provides free services for survivors of child domestic abuse and gender-based violence (GBV). The centre operates a free telephone hotline for help, protection from further violence, investigation of crimes, medical and psycho-social care as well as support and collection of forensic evidence.

“My unemployed husband used to torture me – and after I left, he sought me out to tell me he was going to kill me,” recalls Mary. “He did the same to my children. Mental abuse was frequent in our marriage; he told me I was useless and no longer capable of anything let alone holding down a job. I am distressed that my twelve-year-old son may have picked up ugly traits from my husband and he will abuse his wife one day.” ….

Victims of sexual abuse Dr. Oreste Tuganeyezu is one of the doctors at Isange who helped treat Mary.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Rwanda/2010/Williams
A local woman outside the Isange One Stop Centre in Kigali, Rwanda.

“I have worked with many sad cases,” he says. ” I find it difficult to sleep at night when I think about a two-year-old girl who was raped. The family brought the child to our centre recently. I found the child’s insides destroyed, medically she was suffering a fistula – where the urinary tract had been squashed, as well as infection.”

According to one survey, one-third of all women in Rwanda report experiencing violence since the age of fifteen…

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