Reducing poverty by facilitating processes of reconciliation and improving psychological health

5 mei 2016

After 15 sociotherapy sessions, in which 10 to 15 people with different social historical backgrounds are coming together, most of the groups (73.4%) do not want to separate. Many groups have started associations or saving initiatives (66.9%), by giving an amount between 50 RwF and 1.000 RwF on a weekly basis. Some combine savings with other activities like farming together, handicraft or starting a small trading business.


“Rwandans have so much power within themselves to build their economy, what is hampering them is the trauma and mistrust some of them experience”. –Sociotherapist-


The overview of groups that still meet after 15 sociotherapy sessions is presented in figure below. In total 744 groups have started a cooperative or an association.




In our recent study, 82.4% of the respondents said their socio-economic situation has improved much or very much after participating in sociotherapy (N=139).  The results indicate that when the psychological well-being improves and people are socially connected, their economic situation also improves, even without the provision of direct material/financial support. The fact that so many groups formed cooperatives or saving groups by themselves indicates that participants take ownership over their own development, without depending too much on the outside world. There is a group that saved up to 1.500.000 RwF since its members graduated from sociotherapy.


Community members are amazed to see people working productively while some of them were considered as non-productive people before. To give some examples in Muhanga, there is a man who has been a beggar for a very long time and is presently an employer in his village. In this same district there is a lady who now owns two motorcycle taxis, while she was very poor and tempted to commit suicide due to many psychosocial problems. In Gatsibo there is the example of a female sociotherapist, who was forcefully married before the 1994 genocide against Tutsi, then raped and contaminated with HIV during the 1994 genocide against Tutsis. She now regrets the 20 years during which she was begging and abusing drugs. Currently she is living in a house she built on her own; she started to plant banana trees which helped her to send her daughter to school.



Generally we see that many families who were living in conflicts before are also increasing their income by cooperating together in income generating activities and managing finances.


“After both participating in sociotherapy we were able to forgive one another, started to save together and now share one account. We managed to build a house with 40 iron sheets and buy a small land for 300,000 Rwandan francs.”  - Sociotherapy participant in Gicumbi about reconciling with his wife-


There are also more examples of positive initiatives in the Western province:


  • In Nyamyumba sector, a mixed group of ex-Gacaca judges and families whose members are still in prison formed a small association with a saving structure which has now 228.500 RwF on its bank account. The members do small trading together.


  • In Rubavu sector, a group of ex-prisoners and genocide survivors formed a small association after graduating from sociotherapy sessions. They now have 200.000 RwF on their bank account in SACCO from which they buy goats and distribute them to one another. They also cultivate different plants and sell harvest.


  • In Nyamyumba again a group of new returnees mixed with genocide survivors established a saving structure and have now on their account about 873.150 RwF. It is a small association and its main activity is small trade, agriculture and livestock. The association is progressing well and other people in the community are impressed by the way sociotherapy has succeeded to put the members together in reconciliation and healing processes and that they subsequently became economic operators.


  • A group of young mothers in Rusiga sector are now able to pay mutual insurance for their children and also started animal keeping after 15 sessions of sociotherapy.


“In total 82.4% of the respondents said their socio-economic situation has improved much or very much after participating in sociotherapy”