Grassroots in Rwanda

Grassroots associations are a central pillar of the work of La Benevolencija in Rwanda. By putting into practice the information and the messages of the radio broadcasts, people actually learn and interiorize attitude change. This increases the likelihood that people will change their attitude and behaviour. La Benevolencija works with a group of some forty grassroots organisations: Originally set up to give feedback on the radio drama, they have gradually been transformed and trained into active change agents. The groups have received knowledge and training in conflict evolution, trauma healing, rendering appropriate justice and finally genuine reconciliation. As they are always present in their communities the associations constitute a strong resource for the population in the area in which they live.

In times of peace, grassroots members engage in trauma support in their community, while also being active in helping former antagonists get to know each other and listen to each other’s point of view. In times of crises, these individuals know how to detect the negative influences in public- or peer discourse that play upon their fears and incite them to engage in scapegoating. They apply a sense of perspective and ask simple questions to identify concrete problems, and they know which course of action to take and when to take it, in order to best counteract destructive developments without endangering themselves.

Evaluations of the “grassroots” work done in Rwanda show impressive results of how theoretical messages, if well explained and culturally correctly integrated at community level can be used by illiterate people that make up the majority of the population in the Great Lakes region.The evaluations attest to the tangible success of mixed survivor-perpetrator groups in acting for violence prevention, mediation and cohesion-building. La Benevolencija’s Grass Roots groups provide to their surroundings a living example of role models encountered in the project soaps and so engender further reconciliation activities in the country. Our organiizition intends to strengthen its successful associations and set up further associations in sensitive areas, creating a sustainable network of peace activists continuously active in the country.