Striving to economically empower women teachers

“Today the 8th of march (International womens day), I have received a loan of Rwf 8 million and my plan is to build a residential house in which I will stay with my family. I will then rent out the one that I am currently staying in,” said Rosalie Mujawayezu, a teacher at Ecole Primary school, in Rususa Sector, Ngororero district.

“Today the 8th of march (International womens day), I have received a loan of Rwf 8 million and my plan is to build a residential house in which I will stay with my family. I will then rent out the one that I am currently staying in,” said Rosalie Mujawayezu, a teacher at Ecole Primary school, in Rususa Sector, Ngororero district.

Mujawayezu has been a teacher for the last 15 years. By the time she joined Umwalimu Sacco, she was struggling to support her family, despite her husband’s additional salary. An income generating project she had proposed to her husband had failed to kick off due to the fact that she could not save a coin off the monthly salary. 

When the government started    Umwalimu Sacco in 2008, Mujawayezu was among the first teachers who embraced it. At that time, she said, life was so hard and that her concentration at school was affected.

“When things are not working out at home, it is very difficult for one to concentrate at their work place and this will seriously affect one’s performance,” she said. 

In 2010, she secured a Rwf 8 million loan and immediately opened a butchery in Rususa trading center. Here, she employed three people and continued teaching. 

In one year, she managed to build a small house in the trading centre and also serviced her loan due to the low interest rate she was charged on her loan. The cooperative charges 11 per cent for teachers in public schools and 14 per cent charged for the cooperatives’ employees and teacher from private schools. 

With the first loan, Mujawayezu paid Rwf 27,000 per month. This, according to her, was so easy reimburse compared to other financial institutions.

“I managed to service my loan and my record is clean. That is the main reason why the cooperative has accepted to give me another loan,” she said after receiving her loan. “I believe that I will service it well and ask for more because I have big plans.”

Without considering her monthly pay, Mujawayezu said that she earns more than Rwf 100,000 a month from her business as profits and no longer waits for end of month to earn. She also economically contributes towards the development of her family.

Confidently, she attributes her success to Umwalimu Sacco, as well as her determination take on business ventures.

At least 15,421 women teachers have been able to secure loans ever since the cooperative started, according to the Head of Credit Department at Umwalimu Sacco, Jean Desire Usabyimana.

He explained that women who secured loans from the cooperative have kept their record clean compared to their male counterparts. This has increased their chances of securing loans. 

“Women are so committed to servicing their loans and the earlier they do it, the more chances they create to request for more,” he said.

The Sacco has extended its services to all districts across the country, making sure that teachers in their respective locations get the chance to access the cooperative’s services.

This has also enabled women teachers in rural areas to access the cooperative`s services.

Mobile operations are also in place especially since member’s salaries are channeled through accounts opened with the Sacco. 

 Usabyimana says that the cooperative is committed to changing lives of teachers and that it keeps its records and members even when they are out of the profession so long as they are able to pay from the projects initiated.

Such an example is Alice Mukamurerwa, the former head teacher of Essa Nyarugunga Primary School in Kanombe Sector, Kicukiro district.

She joined the cooperative three years ago and the first loan she secured was Rwf3 million. On the International Women’s Day, she also secured another loan of Rwf 15 million which is the highest the cooperative gives members. 

She said that the money will be used in completing her residential home in Kabeza Sector, Kicukiro district. The six-bedroomed house is self contained with a sitting room, dining and kitchen as well as two small stores. It also has a garage.

“I never knew that at one time I will own such a house in Kigali and I am actually grateful to the Umwalimu Sacco. Not many teachers will have this opportunity,” she said. Currently, she is renting a house at Rwf 100,000 a month.

The 41-year-old said when complete, she will be in position to save some money and open other income generating activities.

“Gone are the days when teachers were not expected to own residential or business apartments,” she said.

Other members of the cooperative say that those who have so far benefited from the cooperative have inspired them. Some have already applied for loans and they say they have grand plans for the money.

“I first heard the good news from my colleague who had benefited from the cooperative before joining. And what inspired me more is the standard of living and development she has attained,” said Alice Mukamunyana.

She joined Umwalimu Sacco last year and she has been saving for the last seven months. Therefore, she qualifies for a loan and officials said she will secure it any time.

Mukamunyana is a resident of Bwira Sector in Ngororero District. She has applied for a loan worth Rwf 8 million. 

“Personally, I have a job but the problem is that my husband is jobless and with the money I expect to get from our cooperative, I want him to start a retail shop,” she said.

The mother of two said that ever since her husband lost his job, almost every responsibility has been placed on her shoulders. She is optimistic that the loan will open up another chapter not only for the husband but for the family in general.

Mukamunyana seems to follow in Chantal Bazubagira’s footsteps. A teacher at CEAPS, a public nursery school in Nyarugenge district, Bazubagira acquired a Rwf1.5 million loan and started a timber business for her husband in Gacingiro, Gisozi sector in Gasabo district. 

The husband, Ephraim Niyonsenga had failed to raise enough capital yet he had experience in the timber business having been employed for about four years. 

Niyonsenga said that among other things, achieved from their business is a house they bought in Kagarama Sector, Kicukiro District at Rwf 2.8 million. They no longer have to pay rent and this they say has contributed to their capacity to save and invest in other ventures.