This week, together with my colleague, Yvan Ngabiwe we had the incredible chance to visit the central Isange One Stop Center, located in the Kaciyru Police Hospital in Kigali. Chief Inspector Police Jeanne D’Arc Mukandahiro, the director of the Isanges in Rwanda has kindly agreed to give us an overview and a tour of the facilities so that we could gain an insight into the way the centers work.
A bit about the Isange One Stop Centers
The first Isange center was established in 2009, as part of an effort to provide a better access to treatment to rape survivors and victims of domestic violence. Before that, the process of getting help was long and tiresome: The survivors first had to go to the police, then to the hospital to get a medical checkup and then finally (if they obtained the necessary referrals) to a psychologue to get support. The idea behind the Isange centers is to reunite all of these components and regroup them in one place, so that those who are coming in for help would get the adequate treatment quickly and without complications.
How does it work?
Accordingly, the Isanges (Isange meaning in Kinyarwandan „feel at home”) provide a multidisciplinary and holistic treatment consisting of the following steps.
Upon arrival, you are directed to the reception who will listen to your story and help you identify which services you need. From then on, you have the possibility to:
- See a doctor, and receive medical treatment
- Talk to a police officer and report the case
- Talk to a psychologist to seek support and schedule sessions with him/her
- Stay at the Isange Center for a few days in the „Safe Room”
All of the services are free and available for anyone walking in, including women, men, children and non-Rwandan nationals living in Rwanda. The Isanges place a particular emphasis in making both children and adults comfortable during the treatment: a separate room for children and adults is available in which they meet the psychologist. Especially the children’s room is very impressive: it is equipped with toys, colorful pencils and paint and all sorts of tools that would help the children express their feelings and be able to talk about the trauma.
What happens after the Isange ?
After passing through all of the stages of the Isange One Stop Centers, the most vulnerable survivors receive a continuous follow-up so as to ensure that they are not exposed to risk anymore (imagine the importance of this in the case of domestic violence!). To be able to achieve that the Isanges partner with the National Police, the Gender and the Health Ministry, as well as some local officials. Officer Jeanne D’Arc Mukandahiro told us that the central Isange follows more than 30 people even today amongst those who have benefited from their services.
How widespread is this ?
For now, there are 44 Isange One Stop Centers in Rwanda, meaning that there is one or two in each district, and there is at least one in each district hospital. The Isanges in the countryside were opened in 2014, and Rwanda is still working on expanding the system and opening more Isanges. At least ten people per day come to the centers, which are open 7/7 24h/24. Mrs. Mukandahiro also told us that they are leading a campaign to raise awareness and fight against GBV and let people know about the Isanges. There is also a hotline that the victims can call anytime.
All in all, the Isanges seem to be a wonderful initiative, helping to treat rape survivors with dignity and facilitating their access to medical and psychological care and justice. We will soon visit an Isange of the countryside, follow our journey!