Youth Share Experience on Intergenerational Trauma

Different youths in the country on July 27 gathered in Kigali to discuss and reflect on intergenerational trauma as a result of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

The gathering convened under the banner of Healing Young Generation Intergenerational Dialogue.

Organized by Ndabaga Impact, a youth-led NGO, the dialogue aimed to raise more awareness regarding unspoken trauma transmission to the youths.

According to Gisele Sandrine Irakoze, the founder of the organization, the initiative was sparked by her curiosity to know what exactly happened during the Genocide as well as her realization of the challenges and traumas fellow youth born after the Genocide were facing.

That triggered her to create a space for research to learn more about the history of Rwanda but also engage different categories of social classes, looking at youth perspectives and documenting the stories about what they went through.

To her, understanding how Genocide has affected her on a personal basis, having lost grandparents, is important.

“Understanding it on a personal basis is a step towards understanding it as an organisation I lead. We make sure that we engage young people through documentation as well as creative arts,” she said.

Through documentation, they collected data from young people and their parents affected by Genocide starting in Rilima Sector in Bugesera District, among other districts they are working with.

Marie-Louise Niyogisubizo who lives in the same sector shared that her father, a Genocide perpetrator raped and impregnated her mother during the Genocide.

Growing up, she couldn’t be accepted by either her mother or her fathers’ families. Those from her mother’s side would say they didn’t want a child of an Interahamwe and she didn’t know her father’s family. She would also be insulted by neighbours which triggered her trauma.

“It’s hard for people like me, born of rape. I never belonged to either my mother or my father’s family. Well, I try to forget about that when I am talking to friends, but when I am alone, I remember everything. What I just do is to try to feel that I am like others and not to lend ears to those who do not want me,” she said.

She thanked her mother for not letting her down and doing all she could to ensure she went to school, as well as Ndabaga Impact for giving her a safe space for the two to talk about their traumas – a step towards healing.

During the event, there was a panel discussion that tackled intergenerational trauma, which among other speakers featured

Tristan Murenzi, the eexecutive chairperson of Rwanda We Want, another youth-led organisation.

He noted that trauma can be transmitted from parent to child genetically, adding that when the child lives in a conducive environment, they can manage to live with it.

“Let’s be close to them and understand them because you can’t deny if one really feels sorrow. Trauma can result into depression and if not cured, it leads to suicide,” he said.

Brave Olivier Ngabo, Program Director of Ibuka, Tristan Murenzi, Executive chairperson and Founder of Rwanda We Want organization and Christian Intwali, Founder of Our Past Initiative during the panel discussion. courtesy

Christian Intwali, Founder of Our Past Initiative tackled the reason why it’s important for youth to learn history of the country, declaring that it helps them to embrace why they need to sustain what has been achieved as well as help each other to heal and strive for development.

He urged fellow youth to converse with their parents and ask questions regarding their experience during the Genocide because some think not revealing anything to them is protecting them rather than something that can help them heal from trauma.

Brave Olivier Ngabo, Program Director of Ibuka tackled the role of safe spaces in helping people with trauma to open up as the first step towards healing.

He declared that healing is a process and hence people need to have a safe space where they can open up, be understood and get help.

“We have to understand the emotions of the victim. We have to give them a safe space to vent and pass out that phase. It’s our responsibility as youth,” he said.

During the event, Umut Arts, a performing art troupe also showcased a play that portrayed how trauma is transmitted to generations as well as how the victims can heal and live a better life. To them, performing art is a powerful tool to teach youth.

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