How local NGO empowers vulnerable women amid Covid-19

According to the United Nations, the combination of economic and social stresses brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as restrictions on movement, have dramatically increased the number of women and girls facing abuse, in almost all countries.

In this regard, Root Foundation, a local NGO that works with vulnerable children in Kigali, believes it is critical to invest in women economically, in order to protect them and their children from abuse that intensifies their vulnerability.


According to Cheez Muragwa, the executive director of the organisation, the Covid-19 crisis was unimagined to the whole world.


However, he says, the issue of women’s financial vulnerability is not new; it was just worsened by the situation.


For this reason, as an organisation, they have stepped in during this time of crisis to fight and overcome the most pressing challenges, by helping vulnerable mothers.

The organisation has enforced two projects to support families in Gasabo District by empowering mothers through income generating skills development and Covid-19 peer counselling.

For income-generating skills development, a group of 14 mothers are given a tutor in sewing and crafts-making classes, and they learn how to use a sewing machine and make clothes.

The women make handicraft items as well and are given skills on how to start and manage a small business amid Covid-19.

After three months of training, the women are expected to graduate of which, each will have a choice to start their independent small businesses, or continue working through the existing cooperative.

So far, the women have produced more than 500 face masks to donate to children in the Batsinda community in Gasabo.

The initiative has seven sewing machines but aims at acquiring 13 more with the goal of training 100 mothers by June 2021.

Covid-19 peer counselling

After sewing classes, the mothers also discuss the experiences they are going through in their homes during this time.

They learn the best practices in parenting, academic assistance to children, and other domestic challenges from each other.

Also, women are invited to the centre twice a month to facilitate and offer necessary emotional and mental support.

Beneficiaries share their experiences

Providence Niyosenga, the leader of the mothers’ group, says through the initiative of peer counselling, she has learned more on how to cope with what is going on.

“From the stories shared amongst ourselves, it’s motivation to some of us who thought we were the only ones affected. Encouraging each other is something we strive for as women,” she says.

Valentine Mukarwego, a single mother of three, says staying at home affected her most because as a single mother, her children were relying on her solely.

“Apart from the basic needs we get, having something that can generate income, especially during this period, means a lot to me and my family,” she says.

Mukarwego says she is able to generate income through sewing, making crafts, and clothes.

Also, apart from her kids being supported in studies, she has also learned the importance of their education, which for now is among her priorities.

Other programmes

Previously, the women would meet for a fellowship to discuss their children, mainly focusing on rights, gender, fairness and each one’s responsibilities when raising a child.

The organisation was founded in July 2012, inspired by the experience of two young men learning from the lives and experiences of children living on the streets in Kigali.

They started with 47 children, now the organisation serves 309 children and their mothers in Gasabo District.

Their mission is to provide children from vulnerable backgrounds a safe space where they are encouraged to learn and develop personally, socially, emotionally, and academically.

“Our broader vision is to contribute to creating an Africa in which all vulnerable children develop their potential and grow up to become valuable community members,” says Patrick Kiruhura, one of the founders.

The education programme currently offers scholarships for more than 40 selected children of all different school levels.

80 per cent of what the organisation earns through the sales of their sewing and handicraft products goes to the women and 10 per cent is saved for their health insurance.

This is supposed to alleviate their struggles to provide for their children.

Meanwhile, 70 teen girls receive reproductive health education and sanitary supplies through the established Umwali, an initiative designed for teen girls.

80 per cent of all the mothers in the programme understand what gender-based violence, domestic violence is, and how to respond in case they or their children are abused.

The women have also formed a cooperative where they save money for the future.

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