“Being abused and beaten by my husband was a daily routine since the day I got married; but then I found Haguruka, where I got all the help, I needed to overcome that hellish situation”. Donatille Said.
How It Started?
Nowadays, in most African countries, women are still seen as childcarers, housewives, home-keepers and devoted wives. This very conception and idea of women often leads to different kinds of violence, either physical and/or psychological, and to other rights’ deprivations as -for example- not being allowed to own properties like men can.
I married in 1984, and since then my husband, Mfizi Stanislas, never granted me any right to have access on family properties; we lived together through a constant state of conflict, and in the meanwhile I gave birth to six children (though as for today we only have three survivors).
A Mere Separation in the Exile
In 1994, me and my husband had to flee to Zaire (the current DRC), due to the genocide happening in Rwanda; once in the country, we had to live in a refugee camp and our relationship turned as cold as in a divorced couple. At some point the UNHCR, which was supporting refugees by distributing goods, food and such to families, provided me with a goat and gave another goat to my husband, even though the rules were that a family was entitled for one goat only.
Coming back to Rwanda
In 1997, we were able to come back to our homeland, Rwanda. We changed country but my husband’s attitude towards me didn’t: he kept abusing me, and not allowing me any rights towards family properties. I lived in a constant state of obedience and submission for long time, in which I remember I have been wearing one single dress for a whole year, even though my husband had money. The children were almost always naked: he couldn’t (or perhaps wouldn’t) buy them clothes.
In 2002, my husband agreed to claim a civil marriage: I started to hope for a positive change, but I was just naive by thinking of that because -since we got to that point- the situation became worse and worse. My husband started to beat me, in addition to the everyday harassment and insults. But this was just the tip of iceberg: by then, he completely stopped providing for the family. He started to eat and drink from restaurants, while my kids and I could only feed on what the neighbors gave. It was a very tough life to live.
The situation became psychologically unbearable, and I started to experience a lot of distress through constant hypertension and anxiety. I was totally and utterly traumatized.
Fighting to Overcome the Situation
After realizing I couldn’t take more of that life, I had an idea: taking the case into court. Unfortunately, my first experience with the justice didn’t go well; I was physically weak, due to the daily harassment and beatings from husband; therefore, I could not make a follow up on the case and everything simply ended up there.
After getting recovered, I started to search for a lawyer who could help me on the second case. However, my second lawsuit was rejected as well, possibly because my lawyer was not able to present the charges in a way I could have been heard.
At that point, I felt I was doomed to that life until the day of my death.
But one day, I heard my neighbors Bumbakare and Rwamanywa talking about an organization called Haguruka which provides support to women and children who experienced any sort of violence: I decided to reach out to them, in order to understand whether they could help me for my case.
How HAGURUKA Helped me to Get my Rights Back
I felt like this was my last resort: I came to Haguruka, desperate and hopeless, and what I found was a fantastic group of professionals providing legal help to vulnerable women and children. I told them my story, and they helped me to write down and document my situation in a clear and concise way, so that I could successfully defend myself in the court. Additionally, Haguruka also helped me in preparing a legal brief, along by supporting me with day-to-day assistance on how to behave in court in order to present my case in an effective way.
In the end, the legal support provided by Haguruka worked. Now I live peacefully with my husband Mfizi Stanislas, and I obtained equal rights as he does, for example by owning half of our family properties. I would like to thank Haguruka for helping me to get my rights back, which have been violated and abused since the very first day of our marriage.
Conclusively, I would like to let the African society in general to know that women are as powerful as men, and they should not be treated as materials or be deprived of their rights: in fact, they need to be empowered so that they can work hand in hand with their brothers and husbands to develop their regions, countries, and Africa as a whole.