When the genocide happened Nyira (Nyirangendahimana) was 20 years old. She had a big family. She was one of 13 children. During the spring of 1994, however, her entire family was killed. When the killings began Nyirangendahimana ran and tried to hide, but was quickly found by a group of men. They raped her but were uninterested in killing her. Once she managed to escape she carried on walking without knowing where to go. She then met a man whom she had never seen before. He took her to his house. For a moment she thought she was safe, but this man locked her in a room and kept her there for the duration of the genocide, systematically raping her every day. She said it was like “not being a woman, not like being a human being.” After the genocide the man was put to prison for killing many people. He wasn’t charged for rape.
After the genocide Nyirangendahimana found out she was pregnant and later gave birth to a baby boy. Her family house in the village was destroyed, so for a while she lived in a shelter. She had to give her body to be able to eat. Today, she is 40 and she still doesn’t have a house. She lives in a small room that she rents from the neighbour. She’s very ill, but since she’s unable to work she’s unable to afford medication or adequate meals.
“My life is bad,” she says. “I’ve spent two months in the house without working. I cannot work because I am sick. It’s a big problem for me.”
Whenever she can, she does small jobs like cleaning and washing for her neighbours. Her first son died when he was 16, but she now has two other younger children whom she has to look after. Her youngest son is a year and three months old.
“I know the father but he doesn’t accept him. We are not married. He can refuse this baby.”
Nyirangendahimana still lives in the same village where she was born. It is the same village where her family was killed, where she tried to hide during the genocide, where she was violated, and where her first son died. “When your children grow up what will you tell them?” I asked her. “I will tell them the truth,” she said.