The idea for Mukomeze was planted on 1 January 2004. On this day, Anne-Marie de Brouwer and Freek Dekkers arrived in Rwanda, where they met Jean Gakwandi for the first time by coincidence at the airport. They soon learned that he was a survivor of the genocide and the director of Solace Ministries, a grassroots organisation supporting widows, orphans and women who were infected with HIV during the genocide. An instant bond was formed with Jean, partly because Anne-Marie was working on her PhD thesis concerning sexual violence against women in conflict situations and partly because Jean had lived in the Netherlands for a while. A few days later, Anne-Marie and Freek unexpectedly met Jean again while visiting Butare, the south of Rwanda.
Since then, Jean and his organisation have become a constant factor in the lives of Anne-Marie and Freek. Many other encounters and events followed, including visits to Rwanda to better understand the work of Solace Ministries and to meet its beneficiaries, attending the first International Conference of Solace Ministries in Switzerland (2007), and raising awareness in the Netherlands of the plight and needs of female survivors of sexual violence during the genocide. Anne-Marie and Freek were very touched by the stories of genocide survivors as well as by the work done by Solace Ministries in Rwanda. A deep conviction that these survivors of the genocide wholeheartedly deserve their support culminated in the establishment of Mukomeze (“empower her”) on 8 May 2008, which focuses on the plight and needs of female survivors of sexual violence during the 1994 genocide.