Letter from my Child : Rwanda
Letter From My Child

Rwanda: Children of Bad Memories

Can Shyaka get answers about his father’s identity from a mother traumatised by the Rwandan genocide?

Editor’s note: This film is no longer available online.

Filmmaker: Ingeborg Beugel

Shyaka, a 13-year-old boy with a disarming smile, is only now a few years younger than his mother was when she was raped in 1994.

Dear Mum,

When I became 9 years old … I started to think about my father for the first time.

Because all friends talk about their fathers. I asked you then for the first time about my father.

I ask you: where is my father? I want to see my father.

–  Shyaka, 13 years old

He is one of the estimated 25,000 children of the 500,000 women who were raped during the Rwandan genocide.

Although it is illegal, many raped women in Rwanda had abortions. Some killed their newborn child. Others abandoned their child. Most of the mothers who bore these babies never told their children the truth.

Goretti, Shakya’s mother, is one of them. Shyaka is a smart, inquisitive teenager who has been asking questions about his father for some time now. And there are quite a few people in Goretti’s village who know what happened to her. People who know that Shyaka is the result of rape.

Beatrice Mukangenzi, a family friend explains: “When the children ask what has happened, a lot of mothers feel they have to lie. One says this, the other says that. But all of it is a lie.

“The children feel that their mother lies because she’s not at ease. That is why children continue asking until they hear the truth. Talking about sexuality is a taboo here in Rwanda. Rape is not a subject that is talked about …. It’s sad. You are the victim … but when you’re raped, it’s as if it is all your fault. So a lot of women hide what has happened to them because they are afraid to become totally ostracised.”

Is Goretti going to answer the letter from Shyaka and tell her son the truth about his descent?