Breaking the Cycle of Violence in Post-Conflict Settings: The Potential of Community-Based Sociotherapy in Rwanda

This NWO WOTRO funded research project, conducted in collaboration with the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR) and Community Based Sociotheray Program in Rwanda (CBSP) aims to: (i) understand how legacies of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, its aftermath and related experiences are transmitted to the next generation of Rwandans through processes within families; and (ii) identify whether and how sociotherapy can play a role in addressing such pathways of intergenerational transmission. Previous research has demonstrated long-lasting and inter-generational effects of mass violence on individuals, families and communities. In Rwanda, the 1994 genocide and its aftermath led to large-scale individual traumatization, disruption of family structures, shifts in gender roles, increase in familial violence, and continuing tensions within communities. In the aftermath of the genocide, sociotherapy has been implemented in Rwanda to contribute to improving psychosocial wellbeing of individuals, enabling interpersonal reconciliation and strengthening social cohesion.

Findings showed direct and indirect pathways by which legacies of the genocide and its aftermath are transmitted to the second generation within families. The direct pathways of intergenerational transmission concern the ways in which the legacies of the genocide are communicated (or silenced) to children. The indirect pathways of intergenerational transmission are the ways in which the genocide and its aftermath affect the second generation’s socio-ecological environment, and through that, the socialization environment of the child. Examples include the effects on (i) family structures (e.g. missing family members due to death or imprisonment); (ii) family functioning and parenting (e.g. suffering of parents makes them less sensitive to the needs of their children); (iii) family socio-economic situation and status (e.g. poverty); or (iv) community relationships (e.g. processes of stigmatization and shame or feelings of jealousy and inequality or mistrust within communities). The pathways are interrelated in various ways. Sociotherapy has the potential to address both direct and indirect pathways of intergenerational transmission through its intervention and more purposeful strategies to target second generation are currently being developed.

If you want to know more about this project, you can read this article in the journal Societies:

Berckmoes, L.H., Eichelsheim, V., Rutayisire, T., Richters, A. & Hola, B. (2017). How Legacies of Genocide Are Transmitted in the Family Environment: A Qualitative Study of Two Generations in Rwanda, Societies, 7(3), 24-42.