“Genocide left women survivors traumatized and with no more value for life. In 1997, we ladies decided to rub off history and took initiative to encourage women football for unity and reconciliation.” (AKWOS)
What is Reconciliation?
"Individuals who have been brutalized in any context need to reach some form of reconciliation with the violence that they have suffered in order to move forward with their lives".For survivors of mass violence, this is particularly meaningful. Such survivors not only have been the target of violence themselves, but have had to cope simultaneously with the loss of their loved ones and the collapse of their communities.
Although a seemingly simple concept, the importance of holding perpetrators responsible for their actions cannot be underestimated as an aspect of healing the survivors of, and witnesses to, major violence.Reconciliation is largely about communication on one hand and justice on the other. Sport addresses communication for reconciliation in an effective and subtle manner. In sport programmes, women and girls find the forum to talk and empathise. In a post-conflict situation, social institutions that publicly condemn the brutality of violence represent one way in which the process of rebuilding can begin for survivors. In Rwanda the Gacaca courts can offer the survivor some semblance of harmony and reconciliation.
Reconciliation is about uniting people. It helps rebuild relationships and create the necessary dialogue to generate empathy. People need to get to the root of the conflict in order to successfully progress. Sport plays a key role in the building of more positive and healthy environments. Girls and women who suffer GBV in a conflict/post-conflict area need to re-establish good relationships with members of different ethnicities in order to break the vicious circle of hate. Participants can engage in discussions during or after sport that promote the benefits of social integration, reconciliation, and peaceful co-existence.
Martha Minow, The Work of Re-Membering: After Genocide and Mass Atrocity, 23 Fordham Int’l L.J. 1999, p429/430
Supra nt. 47
Justice can be found through the medium of the “Gacaca courts”. Gacaca (judgment on the grass) was a Rwandan institution previously used for communal resolution of disputes (often related to land). It was reinvented in post-genocide Rwanda as an extraordinary experiment in transitional justice, designed to respond to cases of genocide crimes at the community level (Government of Rwanda 2002; Honeyman, et al. 2004). Perpetrators are brought together and openly and honestly admit their crime. They apologise, and it gives the survivor a sense of justice. In some villages in Rwanda, it has happened that upon release from prison, some perpetrators go back to their village and build houses for the people they offended. They seek forgiveness. In Sierra Leone, the TRC and the Special Court have both raised awareness about gender-based violence, thus building consciousness among people that rape and other forms of sexual violence are serious crimes.