Rural women attest that joining cooperatives is the best way to transform their lives and improve their family relationships.
They have access to information and new ideas and the capacity to execute bigger projects, financially transform their lives and improve relationships with their spouses.
This was observed Thursday when residents of Kayonza District were celebrating the International Rural Women’s Day that was held under the theme; ‘Let’s end child defilement and build the family we want’.
In comparison to previous decades, women said they look cleaner and have better lives thanks to the Government and its partners encouraging them to join cooperatives.
“Here in Rukara, women are making progress, that progress is thanks to the peace, security, and good governance that we have. Nothing can hamper a woman from developing,” said Liberate Karuhura, 59, a resident of Rukara.
Claire Gatesi, 35, leader of Urukundo Rukara cooperative that has 24 members – 21 women and three men – said the first role of the cooperative was stepping out of isolation and overcoming self-doubt.
“It also gave me value in the home because I used to feel useless and I had to ask for everything I needed, but now I have importance, I am able to bring money home and help my husband,” she said.
Gatesi’s husband was a driver, but she convinced him to quit the job and join her cooperative, which he agreed because he saw her wife reaping big from it.
Now they have managed to upgrade their house and buy an “expensive” sewing machine.
She said it is a challenge for a rural woman when she has nothing to do, something that gets solved when they stick together.
Martha Uwineza, 26, a mother of two, and a member of Gatesi’s cooperative of tailors that started two years ago, added that they made an informal savings group that has the capacity to lend money to members.
“A rural woman is better when I compare to how I have always heard in the past. She has all rights, she has a voice, in leadership and everywhere,” she said.
Besides making money, Uwineza said every member is able to make clothes for themselves and family members.
Grace Muteteri, 46, resident in Mukarange Sector, member of Dukunde Umurimo cooperative that makes baskets, earrings among other ornaments, has managed to make three authentic footballs with her hands.
She is now teaching members how to make the footballs in order to expand their business, and to be ready for the future demand of the balls that are attracting positive feedback.
Before joining a cooperative and being trained on handicrafts, Muteteri used to work for food on other people’s farmlands.
It was difficult, she recalls. She used no family planning and this soon made her a mother of seven.
“I was living in extreme poverty and I lived in fear that my husband would leave me anytime. I could see the signs, due to poverty and having too many children.”
“Since I entered into this handicraft business, my children’s education is going on well and they passed their exams,” she said, explaining that the firstborn completed secondary school two years ago, and the second one was almost there too.
“The Majority of women now understand that being in a cooperative has more benefits than working on their own. It is easier to help them when they come together,” said Jean Claude Murenzi, Kayonza District Mayor,
Antoinette Uwimana, Country Director of Women for Women, said working together as women brings networking opportunities and attract trainings providers.
“In rural areas, a cooperative makes a woman get close to another, being with others gives her more ideas and strength to work, it makes her overcome fear, it also makes them get a substantial capital together to start tangible projects,” she said.
At the event, in partnership with Kayonza District, Women for Women recognised nine cooperatives. Worth more than Rwf10 million, the awards included irrigation systems, sprayers, a bicycle, goats, sewing machines, traditional dance materials, among others.