A Calamity in the Neighborhood: Women's Participation in the Rwandan Genocide

  • Citation: Adler, Reva N, Cyanne E Loyle, and Judith Globerman. “A Calamity in the Neighborhood: Women's Participation in the Rwandan Genocide.” Genocide Studies and Prevention 2, no. 3 (2007): 209–33.
    • Topics:
    • Human Rights

Although public-health-based violence-prevention trials have been successful in a variety of high-risk settings, no study has addressed the prevention of genocide, a form of population-based catastrophic violence. In addition, little is known about women who participate in genocide, including women’s motivations for active participation in hands-on battery, assault, or murder. In order to explain why women assaulted or murdered targeted victims during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, we interviewed ten Rwandan female genocide perpetrators living in prisons and communities in six Rwandan provinces in 2005. Respondents’ narratives reveal two distinct pictures of life in Rwanda, separated by an abrupt transition: Life prior to 6 April 1994 and Life during the 1994 genocide (6 April–15 July 1994). In addition, respondents described four experiential pressures that shaped their choices to participate in the 1994 genocide: (1) a disaster mentality; (2) fear of the new social order; (3) confusion or ambivalence about events on the ground; and (4) consonance and dissonance with gender roles. The unique combination of these factors that motivated each female genocide participant in Rwanda in 1994 would shift and evolve with new situations. These findings may have implications for understanding and preventing catastrophic violence in other high-risk jurisdictions.