'Join me on the Bridge' campaign
Violette fled to a nearby church where she thought she and her children would be safe. But the church was under attack by a machete-wielding militia. To survive, she lay down in the aisle and smeared blood on herself and her children. Pretending to be dead, they hid among the corpses. Afraid to move or make a sound, they lay there for an entire week until the Rwandan army came to liberate the area. Violette estimated that there were 700 people in that church - only 20 survived.
For 10 years Violette struggled to survive, earning barely enough to feed herself and her children. Then in 2004 she enrolled in one of Women for Women International's programs. She was matched with a sponsor in the United States who donated $27 month for one year to support Violette’s training and help her pay for food, school fees and clothing.
As the year progressed, Violette flourished. She learned marketable job skills and honed her innate leadership abilities. Despite having only a high school education, Violette has become a local businesswoman and a leader in her community. She has been able to hire local labourers, often women, to work in her fields and manage her business. She is keen to ensure her wealth benefits her community too.
Violette has also become the president of a local women’s crafts cooperative. Together these women make and sell traditional Rwandan peace baskets, pottery, crochet and other artisan crafts that they sell to local store owners. The peace baskets have become symbols of peace, especially as Hutu, Tutsi and Twa women sit side by side to weave “peace baskets” from sisal fibres using traditional techniques and designs.
Violette says she is moved that the cooperative brings together all members of the village, including those victimised by the genocide and others who have confessed to genocide crimes or have family members in prison. The peace basket cooperative has fostered reconciliation—something unheard of a dozen years ago.