THE work that previously the society considered to have been performed by men is nowadays being done by women.
Women getting involved in hard work (causal labour) is seemingly a common phenomenon around town and the duties they normally get involved in include collecting garbage in the city, working as porters on buildings, road repairing and construction, street vending and finding them underneath vehicles repairing cars in the garages.
Such work in the African cultures and traditions was obviously known to be done by men who were believed to be more energetic than their female counterparts.
The past era restricted women to the home, performing house chores and taking care of the children, but now it seems the trend is taking another direction.
Child and parent socialization processes in the past era were based on roles and duties; girls were trained on how to take care of homes in future such as cooking, while the boys were trained as future soldiers for security reasons, taking care of their wives and children.
The trend continued during the colonial era and more so in the post independence period.
This was either designed by the social, political and the economic set up of African countries and less advocacy for behavioural change among Africans.
Rwanda was no exception to this trend as women continued to serve as housewives before the advocacy for change in this modern era.
The 1994 Genocide that claimed lives of over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus left a number of negative effects which have continued to the present day. Women were the most affected since they were sexually abused, their husbands were killed, leaving the full responsibility of parenting to them.
They became vulnerable to all sorts of problems such as financial and psychosocial hardships which the government is now trying to solve.
Since then, women started striving hard to earn a living by participating in a number of activities previously done by men, all in an attempt to earn a living.
These days, women are more active in a number of activities and cooperatives that aim at improving their economic and social status.
A case in point is Agaseke Cooperative an art and crafts weaving association which is helping many women in Rwanda.
There are many associations and organizations assisting women to combat the problem of poverty but some, especially those in rural areas have not benefited from these associations.
Women at construction sites
In Kigali City, women seem to be more actively involved in hard work and this is evident in Kimironko with the road construction company known as Contra which is employing more than twenty women and girls engaged in construction works.
Though, it may require a lot of effort for one to engage in road construction and more so for the weaker sex as the bible describes them (women), some women have decided to change the trend by doing the contrary.
Residents and by passers along Kimironko side must have seen this scenario, adjacent to Kigali Institute of Education (KIE). A number of women are seen actively building the road as well as digging trenches.
Biransira Mukaribanje said that before they joined this road construction company, most of them were street vendors primarily dealing in food stuffs like avocadoes, sweet bananas and passion fruits in Remera and the city centre.
“Through hard work, we could save about Frw30, 000 per month and taking care of our families was not a problem,” she said.
Unfortunately, police stopped them from working on streets for security reasons and since then, most of them have started a new trend of life.
They could not go back to an illegal business since most of them had incurred great loses as their sale items were perishable.
“Police kept chasing us and wanted on many occasions to confiscate our goods and whenever they got you, they would take you to jail and leave your family alone which was dangerous,” Mukaribanje says.
They seemed patient for some time but they could not get any assistance from leaders concerned despite their problem of being widows and heading families which need daily care.
Mukaribanje, a widow with four children to look after, said that her experience after police stopped their business was like carrying a heavy load for ten miles.
“I could not get money to buy a Kilogramme of Irish potatoes for my children and at the same time pay for their school fees” she says.
Mukaribanje says her children could demand for food all the time but she could not raise anything for them.
This forced her children to sleep without food and it was becoming a common phenomenon.
Fiona Mutoni, 16, an orphan with both parents dead and a family head with three children to look after, says that the responsibilities she has at such an early age is enormous for her to handle which has left her with sleepless nights, thinking of how she will raise her brothers and sisters.
Mutoni says that she could not resort to begging on streets as begging has its own problems. She feared wandering on the streets because men could use her problems as a trap for sexual abuse and other motives.
“I want the money but going on the streets was hard and since I am a girl, some men could use the chance to turn me into a sex object yet it’s not my intention.”
Judith Uwamahoro, an orphan and a S.3 dropout says that she decided to join road Construction Company because she wants to raise school fees (Frw200, 000) for the next academic year but she is not sure she will be able to save some for it by the year 2008.
“I have not got the opportunity to secure a sponsorship like many girls here and I am busy looking for my survival and at the same time saving for school fees.”
They work for ten hours from seven in the morning to a half past ten in the evening.
Uwamahoro says that they work all day but they are not provided with lunch.
They are given a break but with nothing to feed their hungry stomachs, yet they have to resume work like any other employee.
Despite the hard work on empty stomachs throughout the working day, the road construction company pays them with Frw20, 000 per month and this wage depends on how many days one has worked.
“The money we get is very little if you compared to what we used to get from vending yet problems are increasing,” Uwamahoro says.
Most of us have other responsibilities and if we buy lunch with our money, we might end up not saving any, that’s why we resort to fasting till late evening,” she laments.
So with such difficulties that mothers of this country face, they are likely to give up on their children as far as feeding and educating them is concerned, a condition that could give the country a breed of delinquents.