Elisabith and Her Mother, Clare

Kibuye, Rwanda

Clare and Elisabeth.

Clare and Elisabeth.

 

Before my mother disclosed to me that I was born from genocide rape, while I was in school, I would ask myself a lot of questions. The other kids would talk about their fathers, but I didn't ask my mother because I knew she loved me and she would eventually tell me, so I didn't put pressure on her. I didn't have my father but my mother was everything to me.

We were registering for exams at school, and they were asking the name of my father, so I came home and asked my mother, “School wants to know who my father is, can you tell me his name?” My mother called me to the bedroom, and straight off she said, “I was raped during the genocide, I don't know who your father is and that's how you were born.” I sympathized with my mother and I said I don't want to know every detail, that is enough, now I know who I am, my mother then started to cry and we ended it there. But then I knew I was born as a result of the genocide rapes, and I didn't ask my mother details because I knew it was traumatizing her. I was very sad, but then it came to my mind that there are other young people who lost both parents, and here I have a mother and that is what comforted me.

Within me I felt very bad towards myself because at school whenever I would be talking with other students and I would hear some of them talking about their fathers being involved in the killing of people, and other talking about their fathers being killed, I was wondering what side was my father? On the side of the killers, or on the side of the ones that were killed? So there were questions inside me that made me feel insecure and feel stigma, not that other people were stigmatizing me but it was an internal feeling. And whenever parents would come to visit kids at school I would think, maybe my father will come and visit me one day…

When growing up, my stepfather treated me differently; he refused to pay school fees for me, so I was working as a house girl doing all the housework while my sister and brothers that were his kids were at school. When I was growing up I would wet my bed at night, and whenever that happened my stepfather would punish me like he wanted to kill me. That was something that made me fear him. Whenever he would come in the house he would look for fault in order to beat me. But also when he bought cloth for my brothers and sister he would not buy anything for me. ... He would punch me. At first I thought I got this mistreatment because I am the older child, I have to be perfect. I didn't know he was denying me the opportunity of education because of how I was born. Before my mother disclosed to me the circumstances of how I was born, and before my mother divorced him, he used to say “that girl is not my blood,” he would tell my sister and brothers that I am not his daughter… “you are not my daughter after all”… but then whenever I would ask my mother about why he is saying this, she would cry.

The main reason that I think he treated me this way is because I was born as a result of rape, not because I was some other man’s daughter. Because he used terrible language when referring to me, he would call me “good-for-nothing child,” and that made me think that maybe there is something more than just not being his daughter. He would say to my mother, “that good-for-nothing girl of yours, you better get rid of her, and get her away from my home.”  After my mother disclosed to me how I was born, I knew what he meant when he said I was a good-for-nothing child.

Whenever I would be told those bad words by my stepfather, and whenever I had time on my own, I would go and sit somewhere with a small notebook, and I would write sad things about my life. I would write songs, but songs of sadness, and whenever I was done with the writing and wanted to play with the other kids, I would play with them but I would be harsh to them, so I preferred to be alone in isolation and write in my book. The isolation came as a result of what my stepfather told me and how he treated me and what my mother was going through, it made me want to be on my own and think why was this all happening to me and why is my mother crying when I ask her about my father, but I didn't have answers, so I just wanted to be on my own.

The thing that made me happy after my mother disclosed to me was that now I have the answer to whatever was going on in my mind, and because I had the answer without pushing very hard for it, it cleared up a lot of questions in my mind that made me very happy.

The most important thing that I would like to do for my child when he is born, that I did not get, is spending time with my child together with my husband, so that my child receives father and mother love. I received mother love but did not receive father love. And I pray that my husband makes time for our child, so our child experiences the love of a father that I did not experience. I will do anything to make sure we can all sit together and spend time with our children.

-Elisabith, daughter of Clare, 2018

 
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