My encounter with women from Gihaya Island

Water bodies may be fountains of our amusement but they are workshops to others. We go to the lake to catch a break from our fast-paced urban life. The same lake we escape happens to be someone else’s office.

When we kick back and relax on sandy beaches while sipping beverages prescribed for holidaymakers vacationing in exotic destinations, someone is looking for his daily bread offshore.

When we indulge in exciting water sports on those ruffled waves, someone is grinding on the same surface trying to provide for his family. When we call it a day and retreat to the warmth of our lakeside resort rooms, someone is casting his nets in a bid to make ends meet.

During my last trip to the southern flank of Lake Kivu, I was keen on the way inhabitants of the islands located in Rusizi District utilise the lake we run to in pursuit of recreation and leisure.

To learn more about the hustle and bustle of their daily lives, I chartered a boat and sailed around the southern Kivu archipelago. On my way to Gihaya Island, I bypassed a couple of stunning isles whose allure can entice anyone yearning for a tropical getaway.

The sensation of cruising aboard a floating vessel is quite thrilling.

If you have been reading my stories for a while you must be aware of my obsession with Lake Kivu.

However, relaxing at the beach and marvelling at those dazzling waves isn’t enough to quench my thirst. Any offshore activity does the trick and boating is definitely one of them.

When I approached Gihaya island, I was treated to a heart-warming reception by a group of women doing business under the umbrella of a cooperative known as Noza Ubukorikori.

I didn’t have enough time to gather specific details of their endeavours but our brief interaction gave me a preview of their daily routine.

They always wake up at dawn and paddle their small wooden canoes to different fishing spots. Then they buy fish from fishermen and proceed to the market. They deliver fresh fish to the market before sunrise every morning.

Selling fish is not the only thing these proactive women do. They are also traditional dancers. Entertaining tourists is a way of expanding their business portfolio and diversifying their sources of income. In addition, they weave and sell souvenirs to visitors.

Canoeing is physically taxing but Gihaya women do it effortlessly. It’s amazing how easy their strokes look. I was surprised to see them traversing the lake without life jackets. I know their swimming prowess is superb but I thought the regulations enforced by the authorities elsewhere apply to them too.

My encounter with Gihaya women changed my preconceived impression that islanders are slow and idle. I came back to the mainland with a new perception and a deeper appreciation of their diligent hands and ability to transform their raw talents into marketable skills.

The author is an adventurer on a mission to discover what Rwanda has to offer. Follow his awe-inspiring journey on the Sunday Times and

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