Global Grassroots 2011 Year-End Magazine - Page 33

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Global Grassroots 2011

Peace: that is Turwubake’s goal, in a nutshell. The Turwubake team’s leaders identify gender-based violence as a tremendous issue in their home community – because of its widespread existence but also because of its crippling consequences. They talk fluently about resigned women without rights, value, or decision-making power in their own homes; discrimination against daughters; unplanned pregnancies or cases of HIV in domestic workers forced to act as mistresses. As Turwubake president Jeanine Karigirwa explains: the effects of violence against women touch all members of society, “even those who are not victims, even those who are not perpetrators.”

Jeanine has a tentative, melodic voice, two children, and an unlimited capacity for human connection. She grew up in southern Rwanda, raised by a grandmother who taught her by example to think of others first. When she lost her family in the 1994 genocide and had to drop out of high

school, Jeanine joined an association for volunteers that cared for HIV/AIDs patients at the local hospital. In 2008 she saw the Global Grassroots application and filled it out without hesitation. “I knew that that was my experience,” she says in Kinyarwanda. Her tone is warm but matter-of-fact. “I think I have been trained to be an abitangira abandi [change agent] all my life.”

Jeanine, vice-president Rahema Ukwigize, and treasurer Vianney Musonera know what a tremendous impact their project will have. They are experts on their community and its needs; after all, they live in it. Rahema, who’s in her seventies and still stunningly beautiful, often visits female neighbors and finds them upset because of recent abuse.

The team also witnessed reports of gender-based violence at neighborhood council meetings. In particular, they have noticed the spread of violence against women employed as domestic labor.

With Global Grassroots’ help, Turwubake designed and conducted an issue study about domestic violence in their community. Fifty-three percent of men surveyed believe they have the right to beat their wife if she returns home late at night. Sixty-five percent of wives surveyed report physical abuse by their husbands. Seventy-nine percent of female domestic workers experience verbal abuse at their jobs, and eighty-four percent asked Turwubake to teach them a technical skill to allow them to leave their domestic jobs.

In its first year, Construct the Family is training 50 households, 30 domestic workers and 30 victims of domestic violence on gender equality. They are mobilizing domestic workers and

Change Agent Profile:

Jeanine Karigirwa & Turwubake: Construct the Family*

By Christina Hueschen

photo by Christina Hueschen