When Jacqueline Muhimpundu, a Burundian refugee, arrived in Rwanda in April 2015 she had only Rwf20, 000 to survive. Despite the ordeal, she managed to invest the little money she had, and she is currently running a company dubbed “DETEX Enterprises Ltd” that produces liquid soap in Kigali. “When I arrived in Rwanda, my four children and I were accommodated by a widow who also had six children in the Muhima sector. The family had to feed twelve people. On my side, I had almost nothing except Rwf20, 000. The woman used to make doughnuts. We joined forces, with her making the doughnuts and me supplying them to our clients,” she narrated. ALSO READ: Women empowerment: A right or favour? Muhimpundu later managed to rent her own one-bedroom house with a living room. With the little money she earned from doughnuts supply, she joined a women’s saving group. She collected Rwf200, 000 from the first round of savings and used a portion of it to start a liquid soap production business, a skill she said she had learned before. “I had skills to produce two types of liquid soap. I started with producing 40 litres of soap and operated this business at home for two years,” she said. The entrepreneur collected Rwf500, 000 from the second phase of savings in the women’s group. The savings helped her rent a house to accommodate her soap production workshop in Remera sector, Gasabo District, although she was a Kicukiro District resident. At this point, she had also obtained a refugee identity card, which facilitated her access to various services, including health insurance and education for her four children. ALSO READ: The inspirational women behind Rwanda’s homegrown fashion trends Muhimpundu successfully registered her company with Rwanda Development Board (RDB). In 2019, she was chosen by a local advisory firm and impact investor that assists entrepreneurs in growing their businesses and creating prosperous communities. This support includes entrepreneurship development and access to finance. She in turn hired three workers to help in the soap production. “I got a Rwf5 million loan at a lower interest rate from Inkomoko which I had to pay back in one year. After repaying, I got the second loan which I am currently using,” she said. In 2022, Muhimpundu also got an equipment grant from ECOREF, a project implemented by The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in partnership with Rwanda Rural Rehabilitation Initiative (RWARRI). She got Rwf2.5 million for equipment to increase soap production. “The support I recently received will expand my stock of raw materials. I had a stock that can enable soap production for one month, and with new equipment, the stock can enable production for three months,” she said. She noted that she was only supplying to 10 big clients and with new support, she can supply soap to about 40 big clients. “I was employing six people and have hired two more. The income which I expect to earn will also help to have a stock with raw materials that can serve me for six months,” she said. The workshop has the capacity to produce 500 jerry cans of 20 litres each per month on average. However, she said, during peak season, she can produce 1,000 jerry cans. Her company supplies the soaps to different clients such as restaurants and bars, hotels, hospitals, supermarkets, homes, and others in Kigali. Her products are also marketed online under the support of Rwanda Mart, an online shopping platform. “I am currently able to produce 15 types of liquid soaps. I urge other female refugees to work hard, seek knowledge so as to reduce dependence on external aid. I have so far trained more than 300 female refugees in different camps. While more women and youth still want to learn from me, I have no resources to train them. It requires more support,” she said. Fostering orphans Muhimpundu said in addition to her four children, she is fostering two orphans, who have all managed to go to school in Rwanda, she said. “I still need more support to access finance from banks so that I can manage to look after the six children. I have to feed them, and pay school fees among other basic needs,” she said. Her eldest son has completed secondary school, the one who comes after is still in secondary school and the other two are still in primary school. “When we arrived in Rwanda, the eldest was 12 years old. He has grown up, completed secondary school, and is a footballer. He played for Etoile l'Est and Gicumbi FC. I am yet to afford his tuition fees to pursue a university education,” she said. The two orphans she is fostering are also studying in primary school. Muhimpundu, who is also skilled in hairdressing, plans to expand the business to a women’s hair salon. The struggle of female refugees is one of the topics that advocates for women are putting on the table for discussion at the Women Deliver Conference that started on July 17, in Kigali. ALSO READ: Women Deliver delegates on the importance of open dialogue Women Deliver Conference has convened thousands of decision-makers from diverse fields, including civil society, government, the private sector, and international agencies, alongside women’s rights organisations and movements, youth-led organisations, and advocates representing the intersectional identities of girls, women, and underrepresented populations in order to identify solutions, bolster accountability, and drive change. You can reach out to Muhimpundu on the following phone number, 0788-408-211.