2011 Gruber Women’s Rights Prize Will Go to AVEGA Agahozo for Service to Genocide Survivors
NEW YORK, June 23, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Left without the legal protection of husbands after the ugly bloodletting of 1994, fifty women stood together in Rwanda to form AVEGA Agahozo, the Association of Widows of the Genocide, and 17 years later they are still helping one another and thousands of other survivors to get on with the business of living.
For their work, the group will receive the 2011 Women’s Rights Prize of The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, a $500,000 unrestricted cash award, to be presented in a ceremony later this year.
In a historically patriarchal society, AVEGA has helped to achieve legal reforms that, for the first time, gave Rwandan women inheritance rights, established rape as an act of genocide and defined other crimes of sexual violence as serious crimes.
The group seeks to promote the general welfare of widows through legal advocacy, social and economic development projects, and education, training and other support that contributes to income generation and self-sufficiency. It also operates three health centers and provides medical services to thousands.
Headquartered in Kigali, Rwanda, AVEGA Agahozo provides services across the country and includes among its members more than 20,000 widows and more than 71,000 dependents and orphans. Of the 300,000 to 400,000 survivors of the Rwandan genocide, widows outnumber widowers ten to one. It is the widows and orphans who witnessed the atrocities and, in many cases, suffered extreme violence themselves. Sexual violence was often used to humiliate and degrade women during the 100 days of the violent scourge, with the estmated number of women raped ranging between 250,000 and 500,000. Traumatized and shamed, many of these women are seeking help now only because they are ill. For these women, AVEGA is a refuge, providing medical services, psychological counseling, education and training, housing and legal services. AVEGA offers medical help to those suffering from AIDS and has coordinated voluntary testing for HIV for more than 10,000 of its members.
AVEGA also assists widows who wish to testify against those accused of genocide. Members are accompanied to court and receive AVEGA’s assistance in resolving their cases. In national, international and community-based Gacaca courts, an estimated 800,000 perpetrators have been convicted so far. AVEGA pushed for reform, lobbying lawmakers, judges and journalists until a law was passed in November 1999 allowing widows the right to inherit a husband’s property. AVEGA’s advocacy played a pivotal role in securing the introduction of Rwanda’s first gender-based violence law, enacted in 2009. AVEGA has also helped women become involved in income-generating activities, such as business projects, farming and handicrafts.
For the full release, other media materials and additional background information on the Gruber Prizes visit: www.gruberprizes.org/Press.php. Find The Gruber Foundation on Facebook: at https://www.facebook.com/GruberPrizes
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SOURCE The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation