Norris Exhibit Explores HIV’s Role In Rwandan Genocide

Elise Foley

By Elise FoleyThe Daily Northwestern

Twenty stories of rape and survival from the Rwandan genocide are on display in a special exhibit in Norris University Center’s Big Ten Room until March 18.

The Tubeho Project Exhibit, which opened Wednesday, shows the pictures and testimonials of the genocide’s survivors. The exhibit is sponsored by Northwestern’s chapter of Rotaract, a service-oriented club sponsored by Rotary International.

The group hopes the exhibit will raise awareness of the HIV and AIDS crisis because of the disease’s role in the Rwandan violence, said event organizer Karampreet Sachathep, Rotaract’s community service chair.

“The exhibit is basically about Rwanda and how rape and AIDS were used as a tool for international violence,” the Weinberg junior said.

Each year the club picks a different issue to focus on. This year’s theme is HIV and AIDS.

“(We want) to create awareness of AIDS on the international arena for the Northwestern community, and to create awareness of the other issues which can become entangled in sexual violence,” club president Nandita Batra said.

During the genocide, the Tutsi people – one of Rwanda’s three native groups – were especially targeted, the Weinberg senior said.

“Sexual violence was used as an instrument of war against (the Tutsis),” Batra said. “A lot of the military had HIV, and they used it against civilians as an instrument of genocide.”

The group’s focus on HIV and AIDS awareness will extend to its first service trip during Spring Break, when the group will travel to Belize to help AIDS victims.

“We identified a service trip as a great way to do international service,” Batra said. “We can see what impact we’re making, and it will enable students to engage with the issues at hand.”

Nine students will go on the trip to Belize, the country with the highest AIDS rate in Central America, said trip organizer Carrie Lam, a Weinberg sophomore.

“We’ll be helping out at some hospitals and clinics, working with the Belize National AIDS Commission to increase awareness about HIV and AIDS,” the Weinberg sophomore said.

The group also will meet with members of Belize’s Rotaract group, Lam said.

“One of the goals of the trip is to engage students in international service and the issues that affect the world,” she said. “We really believe in hands-on projects.”

Rotaract hopes its projects will give students more global awareness, Sachathep said.

“I feel like in this day and age it’s easy to become complacent,” Sachathep said. “Understanding what’s going on and how international issues affect us is important.”

Reach Elise Foley at [email protected]