After the Rwandan genocide in 1994, Blandine, a Hutu woman, lived within a ravaged community in northern Rwanda consisting of makeshift mud huts and tarpaulins. She was always terrified and exhausted.
The women of Blandine's village would leave their huts at 5am, often carrying children and a 20 litre plastic can, to walk 18km to the nearest lake to fetch contaminated water with which to cook and wash. They would return by 1 or 2pm, too exhausted to do any of their traditional farming duties, and sometimes broken by attacks and rapes on the way.
Blandine had heard of a training course being offered by Tearfund’s partner, Moucecore. It was being offered to all church community members to help them engage with inner personal healing and corporate transformation. In 2001, she was the only one who decided to do the training.
She experienced a profound inner spiritual shift, went back to her community and began to engage with her family and people in a new way. She gathered a group of other Hutu women around her and shared the training with them, helping them engage with issues that the training brought to light. From this, they formed the first community Solidarity Transformation Group (STG).
Blandine began to embrace a new understanding of her identity as a child of God first and foremost. As the other Hutu women within the STG began to have similar experiences, they were able to reach out to women within the community from the Tutsi tribe.
Tribal divisions began to melt away as the women saw themselves belonging to the same spiritual family. The men in the village also began to notice a difference in their women and inspired by the deep changes they were witnessing within the women’s groups, they came together to form their own STG.
Our Work in Gender and Relationships
Global poverty often has a woman’s face. 70% of those living in poverty are women and more than half a million women die in pregnancy and childbirth each year. Gender-based violence causes more deaths and disability among women aged 15 to 44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war (WHO - World report on violence and health, 2000).
Jesus treated both men and women as individuals, worthy of his full attention. He encouraged and affirmed women throughout his teaching, at a time when society gave women little value.
That’s why Tearfund is committed to ensuring that every aspect of our work is sensitive to gender, and encourages churches worldwide to support and advocate for the equal worth of men and women.
Tearfund’s pioneering work on gender has led to the launch of Restored, an international Christian alliance aiming to draw the church’s attention to violence against women both within and beyond its own walls.