The hurdles of house hunting for women in Rwanda

“After graduation, I happened to get a job from the company I did an internship from. I finally wanted to be independent because the job paid me well.

To my dismay, looking for a house didn’t seem as easy as I expected. I thought all one needed was money to get a house, but I was wrong. As I kept searching, I finally got one in Kicukiro but that was the start of my troubles.

The landlady was not only rude but asked whether I had a ‘sponsor’ who would help manage rent for a house of Rwf250,000. I was speechless.

What was important is that I had her money with me, for four good months. She asked for my bank statement, just to be sure that I would be paying her in time. Which I turned down. So I lost that house just like that,” Diane Teta narrates.

To cut the long story short, she finally got a house but after asking her male friend to accompany her. That way, the landlord was so sure that at least this man he thought was her boyfriend, was in the picture, meaning, money wouldn’t be a problem.

Unlike in the old times, where most women only left their parents’ home after the wedding. Today, a lot has changed and most working women are increasingly moving out of their parents’ homes to stay alone.

Damien Mouzoun, a Kimironko based family counselor, says in many cultures around the world, mostly in the west, there is a mandatory age for children to leave their parental home.

He further adds that generally, parents encourage their sons and daughters to move out in order to develop some grit and prepare themselves for the real-life ahead of them by learning to work hard on their own, taking responsibility and earn an honest personal wage but also not become so comfortable with freebies from the family.

Mouzoun also states that it is difficult for some parents to admit that it is normal for the child’s development to be independent after a certain age. Some think more about their security or morality than their empowerment role and may not tolerate such a decision.

“I think if the young unmarried woman chooses to leave outside their comfort zone for good reasons, there should not be a problem as they may still come to visit the family at home. For some reason, if it comes to renting a house, landlords should be considerate. If someone promises to pay their rent even if they are single, they should hear them out,” he says.

Increasingly more Rwandan working-class women are opting to move out of their parents’ homes, however, this has stirred discussions on social media on the stereotypes associated with a woman looking for a rental to live alone and sometimes the dangers associated with such a move.

Safety concerns

Agnes Uwimana, an accountant, says that her first time to stay alone caused her nightmares when thieves broke into her compound a few weeks after moving into the house.

“I made sure my house was locked and added padlocks on every door but this did not help because one time my house-help forgot a few things outside which we found stolen the next day,” she says.

Uwimana says she sought advice from her neighbours and they made her fear more when some said that thieves have a habit of breaking into homes of women who stay alone because they are considered vulnerable.

It was after she contacted Police who dispatched a unit to brief her on what steps to take to be safe. Since then no thief has broken into her house again.

Francine Umutoni, who has been staying alone for a few years, says that, unfortunately, women have to be extra careful because, if thieves break into your house, there is always the fear of being raped.

“It is not just thieves breaking into my house but it could be the taxi driver or taxi-moto driver taking me home late at night who can decide to take advantage of me. So I have to be careful that most people don’t get to know that I stay alone,” Umutoni says adding that although Rwanda is relatively safe, women should not throw all caution away.

House broker weighs in

Jimmy Bayisenge, a 28-year-old house broker, points out that landlords have specific tenants they prefer to occupy their houses.

“As we search for such tenants, we are very clear about what the landlords want. For bigger houses, of about four bedrooms, of course, they would prefer a family to occupy it,” he said.

He also enlightened that the small houses of single or two rooms are mostly for single people. However, landlords might doubt a single woman who wants to take on a big house that should have been occupied by a big family which raises suspicions of whether they might pay.

Bayisenge also noted that some landlords have to first know the kind of jobs such as single women do so that they at least have hope that maybe they will be able to pay.

Jeanne Uwimana owns rentals in Kacyiru, unlike other landlords who feel uncomfortable letting in singles, she prefers renting her houses to singles.

For her case, singles are more organized, won’t make noise, or make the walls and houses dirty unlike tenants with children or single women who have kids.

Uwimana notes that she doesn’t have regrets about her decisions, and is in good terms with her clients.

She also further says that some landladies don’t like renting their houses to single ladies as they worry that maybe their husbands or elder sons might be attracted to them, which creates complications.

Bruno Ark Agaba, a philanthropist says it is unfair the many hurdles that single women have to go through to get a rental and further adds that Landlords have no right to be intrusive in the private business of their tenants by inquiring what their jobs are or if they have the ability to rent.

“Girls who are minors or those who choose to are the only ones that stay at their parents or Guardians’ homes. But if someone is of age, they ought to be allowed their independence, whether they are married or not, as long as they can afford the rent,” he cautioned.

He further noted that staying alone helps one become innovative by finding solutions to challenges they might meet as opposed to when they are under their parents’ roof.

For Jackie Lumbasi, a media personality, none of her parents, neighbours or landlords have had issues or faced resistance with her decision on renting.

She, however, stated, there are parents that wouldn’t easily let their daughters move out, though to her opinion, such girls given some freedom and a benefit of the doubt, grow fast, plan and budget better. They view problems in unique lenses and seek for solutions as mature people.

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