During the 1994 genocide, Rwandan women were subjected to massive sexual violence, perpetrated by members of the infamous Hutu militia groups known as the Interahamwe. Among the survivors, those who are most isolated are the women who have borne children as a result of being raped. Their families have rejected both them and their children, compounding their already unimaginable emotional distress.
An estimated 20,000 children were conceived during the genocide in Rwanda, and many of their mothers contracted HIV during the same encounters that left them pregnant. They feel they have lost their dignity, are alone and utterly powerless.
Intended Consequences chronicles the lives of these women. Their narratives are embodied in portrait photographs, audio interviews and oral reflections.
Especially now, when history is repeating itself in the Darfur region of Sudan, it is vital that these voices be heard, and that the victims and survivors of the genocide not be forgotten. Many of the women I’ve interviewed have waited more than a decade to start healing themselves by telling their stories. “I cannot really tell you how many men came to rape me,” says Verena Uwingabira, now 34 and HIV-positive. “I can’t count them. All I know was that four months later I was pregnant. I felt so bad, I tried committing suicide twice after I was pregnant. Now I live with HIV and AIDS.”
The history of Rwanda and the history of humanity live in the experiences of these women, who are still struggling to restart their lives. By hearing their voices, one begins to grasp the legacy of the genocide.
Every survivor’s experience is unique, and the collective story they tell is no less important today than it was in 1994. Many of the women I have photographed say they were raped only after being forced to witness the murder of their families. “You alone are being allowed to live,” many were told, “so that you will die of sadness.”
These women have lived through unimaginable suffering, yet the future of Rwanda is largely in their hands. With a population that is 70 percent female, the country is now dependent on the women who survived the genocide to heal and rebuild the country.