However, the Rwandan genocide was unique in the sense that the mass extermination was not only executed by people from the military or community leaders but by almost every citizen in the country. This means, women were also having different roles aside from being raped and killed. They participated not just as victims but also as villains to other women. Because of this, the traditional view that women are powerless against men does not apply and should be reexamined. Women have long been marginalized.
The classical stereotypes of women as “beautiful souls” and men as “just warriors” were not consistent in its context. There was a nationwide involvement by women in the massacre through sexual perpetrations. Thus, women are not only “beautiful souls” but also hold the qualities of warriors contradictory to the ancient belief that resulted to long term marginalization. Women were not only victims but also villains in the genocide. Conflicting Role Models during Conflicts We have already identified the conflicting female role models above.
We have seen how conflicts shaped gender roles and, in return, how the different roles shaped the conflict and the ideas that lie behind the gender-based stereotypes. First is the role of women as civilians and as victims of various brutal acts, especially rape and sexual violence. This is the classical stereotype which impedes explorations of the other sides of women’s involvement, particularly the participation of women in the genocide. The Rwandan genocide was aimed at killing all the Tutsi tribe members and adherents which includes moderate Hutu civilians.
Since the Tutsi women were the carrier of the “ethnic identity”, they were killed to ensure tribe extermination. As civilians, women’s role is to carry the future population and safeguard their unique characteristics. However, females are dubbed powerless against males who did sexual violence to them. Another role that the Rwandan women took was the role as perpetrators. This role is very much contradictory to the previous role as women were dubbed as powerless especially during wartime. The classical stereotype of women as “beautiful souls” was inadequate to describe the female role models during the Rwandan genocide.
Women from all over the country committed murder and sexual perpetrations against other women possibly because of personal convictions or as an order from the community leaders who were manipulating the ethnic identities. It showed that women are not only “beautiful souls” but they too have the characteristics of a warrior. The two conflicting female role models combined in a single historical event have to be reexamined. There must be rethinking of the classical gender-based stereotypes. Women Roles in the Aftermath of the Conflict
Aside from the varying roles of women during the genocide, they continue to struggle through the remains of the conflict. The women faced challenges in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide and the Rwandan Civil War as a whole. They were instrumental in the reconciliation and restoration efforts of the Rwandan society and also in the international community. In the past, women involved in the policy-making bodies in Rwanda were insignificant except before the pre-colonial period when the monarchy established by the Tutsis which recognize the important role of women in the government as institutionalized by the queen mother.
When the genocide in 1994 finally cooled down, Rwandese women actively played critical roles in the newly established Government of Rwanda. They organized groups that aimed for solutions to the problems in their communities as well as those of their country. They had taken positions in the government (executive, legislative, and judiciary) as well as other systems which were once helpful in the nation-building process. These women served as role models for other women to develop their confidence and participate in the reconciliation and restoration efforts.