As the country fights to make its Vision 2020 a reality, women are not taking a back seat. In fact, they have been key actors in reconstructing the new Rwanda.
They are not doing this in traditional ways. Rwanda’s womenfolk have come out of the kitchens and fields, and ventured into all kinds of jobs that until recently have been no-go areas for them.
The buzzing sound of the houseflies, the putrid smell of flesh and a crowd of eager customers welcomes you at Nyabugogo and Nyamirambo butcheries. Interestingly, women have entered this gruesome business, taking it to the next level.
“I know people hear this all the time but there is no work a man can do that a woman cannot do,” says Jane K (not real name), while standing alongside her butchery waiting for customers to buy her offing’s .
Not only have women taken up important positions in companies and government institutions, they have also become construction workers, taxi drivers and now butchers.
Without a doubt, when strolling around the butcheries in Nyabugogo, and Nyamirambo, you get the impression that women have taken over the entire place. And don’t be surprised when all of a sudden one of them grabs your hand, pulls you into her shop and with lots of sweet talk, convinces you to buy kilos of meat you hadn’t planned for. These ladies mean business.
Umutoni is one of these women. This single mother of six kids – two of them adopted – used to work as a tea girl but took a dislike to the environment.
“My sister advised me to try the meat business in 1997. For sure, it was one of the best decisions of my life because business is good—I have managed to look after my kids and my life has completely changed,” Umutoni said.
She explained that she buys 1500 kilogrammes of meat per day to be sold at her butchery in Nyamirambo, earning her a profit of Rwf 12,000 per day.
“I get pleasure from my work because the profits have enabled me to take care of my family. I have even completed the construction on my own house,” she added.
Former house cleaner Olivia Mukansine also shares the same story although hers was a childhood dream. She happily wields giant knives and cleavers.
“I was a housemaid for some time, but I felt like I was in hell. It is the worst experience I have ever had,” Oliva recalled. “But I persevered because I had my own plan; I was saving money, and after six years I retired from the job and followed my heart into the meat business. A woman I used to buy meat from when my bosses sent me to the butchery inspired me,” said the butcher.
With a big smile on her face, Olivia said she saves about RWF 400,000 a month and is planning to take her business to another level.
She pointed out that in the past, women “were not allowed’ to do such jobs, but after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, women were forced to take up all sorts of jobs.
“In the past, ignorance and primitivism ruled, with cultural traditions restricting women, but now there is real gender equality,” she explained.
Female butchers come from all walks of life. Francoise T (not real name) for instance, was once a government employee. In 2003, she decided to quit her job and be her own boss – a butcher. “It’s all in your head; if you are determined and competent, there is no work a man can do that a woman cannot do,” Francoise affirmed.
For Bayisenge, a 60 year-old employee in one of the Nyamirambo butcheries, working for the women business owners is an experience he wouldn’t trade for anything.
“Working for a woman is just the best thing, they understand and their motherly nature makes them softer and more tolerant people,” says Bayisenge, who helps Francoise at her butchery.