Logo SAVE - Sisters against violent extremism

15. March 2006

Emertha ©Xenia Hausner

Emertha while her visit in Vienna.

Emertha at the football play © Edit Schlaffer/WwB

Mag. Robert Pelousek/Sports Division of the Austrian Federal Chancellery invited Emertha to see the play Austria - Canada live.

Emertha in Vienna © Edit Schlaffer

Emertha at the presstalk © WwB

Georgnia Nitzsche/WwB (left) and Emertha at the presstalk.

Rwanda - In football there are no Hutus and Tutsis, there is just us, we, the team

Emertha, one of the „Kicking for Reconciliation!“ - football trainers in Kigali/Rwanda was in Vienna from February 23 to March 2 2006.

On invitation of the initiative "Wider die Gewalt" (Against Violence) Emertha was the special guest of this year´s "Nacht der Wiener Wirtschaft", the Ball of the Viennese Economy, on February 25th. Our sincere thanks!

In a press talk the 28-year-old student of economics talked about her story and of how she started to play football. She told us that she was one of the first women to build up a students association at a University in Rwanda.

"I'm an orphan, I lost my parents and since then I have had the responsibility for four children—my two sisters and my two brothers. My childhood was not an happy one. My father died during the genocide in 1994, my mother died one year later because of cancer. Suddenly I was responsible for four children. But I was among the few women who could take these responsibilities. Not all young women can manage this; it is a very heavy job. Many girls who go through the same tragic experiences find solutions which I think cause more problems rather than being a solution to their problems. Instead of finding solutions they again find problems, like getting into prostitution. If you say you're an orphan and you need some money and you go into prostitution to get that money, then you are creating another problem rather than solving yours. So that's why I did not want to do that. I said I would be creative on my own, I should find something to do. Well, I was lucky. The government sponsored my education because I had good marks at high school.

I know that I can empower the girls and women in Rwanda
When I was at the university I thought that I should form an association for women. There are so many sad stories. Like a first year student who is pregnant, and when you look at her background, you find that she is an orphan, she that she has no family background. But she's pregnant. Some of these young girls are already dying of HIV.
I have a passion for women in Rwanda, and I feel I can empower them both physically and mentally. In this student association, everybody would come together, invite some women who were more experienced and educated and who were role models, so that they could come and tell us what to do, like reproductive health. This students assocication became a success. FAWE (Forum for African Women´s Association) got to know about the association and supported me. Actually they advised us to form the same association at several universities in Rwanda. Now every university has an association for female students. Sand that’s how I started working with the FAWE.

Football is my passion
This is what I have achieved so far, but I am not done at all. I will continue to work on strengthening women and girls. But I also work on my own empowerment, for example when I am playing football. Football is my passion.

I found some women playing football. They called themselves „Urumuri“, that means „light“. I found that so interesting and I said ‚’wow, women can play football!“ And I joined them and got much better at playing football. I didn’t want to stop anymore.
By chance I heard that Women without Borders wanted to start the project „Kicking for reconciliation! “and I wanted to be a part of this.

I have my legs and I use them
My neighbours were always saying „Oh! Emertha, you playing football! You think this is right what you're doing? This is a man’s job, you should not do that. What’s wrong with you? And I always answered „Why? I have my legs and I use them! What's up? Do I ask you to help me? It's me who's playing and the ball is there. So let me just play“.

I am so happy to be one of the trainers in the project of „Kicking for Reconciliation!“, It’s just great to have the chance to train other girls. The girls are really playing well now and for us trainers it is fun.

Football as Empowerment
Playing football strengthens the girls in an incredible way. Not only in a physical sense, but also in the sense that they begin to feel that they can do what men and boys do. The 160 girls are still eager to play football and to train.
Many other girls and even married women also want to join the program, but we don’t have that much capacity. The project is so important, we need it and we really hope that it will turn into a big movement.

Kicking for Reconciliation
We don't have one team for Hutus and another team for Tutsis. We come together and play together. This is our way of reconciliation, of forgiving each other. Our motto is: this is my team. We want to play together and win! We forget our tribes and what happened, sad things which, on the other hand, also brought us together.
One of the participants, Regina, came to me recently and told me:” Thank you so much! This project is very important to me! Right now my father is in prison. He committed crimes in the 1994 genocide, and I always felt very guilty. I always felt very uncomfortable, because I thought that everyone at school thought that I was the daughter of a killer. Before I used to go home after class and start crying thinking about my father. But now, after class I go practicing and playing football – together with the others.“

In this project there are no Hutus and Tutsis, there is only us".

Four month ago Emertha started a radio program for children, „Children’s Voice“. Because of her own story she knows what it is to be alone, what it is to struggle. Many children don’t have the opportunities she had. She wants to give these children a voice, make their stories public: „I have to think about the children who have to struggle, who have to live under such bad conditions, who have the same story as me. They don’t have anybody to talk, they often don’t have anything to eat, they cannot go to school. I want these children to raise their voices and that people understand what their problems are. “

Click here to read more about "Kicking for Reconciliation!".


« Back to overviewSend a friend Print article