The Nyamirambo women making a difference

The road leading to Biryogo Market in Nyamirambo is a narrow and dusty strip with a number of small stores embedded to each other at its opposite sides. However, as you walk towards the end of this road, just opposite the main market is the office of Nyamirambo Women Centre (NWC).
The women of Nyamirambo Women Centre. The New Times/ J. Oindo
The women of Nyamirambo Women Centre. The New Times/ J. Oindo

The road leading to Biryogo Market in Nyamirambo is a narrow and dusty strip with a number of small stores embedded to each other at its opposite sides. However, as you walk towards the end of this road, just opposite the main market is the office of Nyamirambo Women Centre (NWC).

Grace Mukeshimana is busy on her tailoring machine in a small room with three other machines by her side. She says the small space doubles as their workshop and classes, where a number of women take their tailoring lessons. They also occasionally organise seminars and workshops to do with gender based violence and family planning.

The group’s President, Mrs. Marie Aimee Umugeni, says that NWC is a diverse and heterogeneous group that brings together socially marginalised, hard working women and girls (aged between 22 and 46) from different social, cultural and religious backgrounds. They are 18 to be exact.

“All of us were neighbours going through a lot of difficulties. In fact, five of us stayed in the same building while others were close by. At that time, no one was employed and life was a daily struggle for survival. Some of us were small traders selling fruits while others were selling clothes in the market. But they had children to feed and rent to pay and life was generally hard.”

Umugeni adds that most of the women at that time were either widows or single mothers who had dependants to take care of. However, they had the same philosophy in life and they all wanted to get out of the harsh life they were living at that time, hence the birth of Nyamirambo Women Centre.

Umugeni says that it was difficult in the beginning but they went through the challenges one day at a time.

“When we started the group towards the end of 2007, it was just an idea but this idea later transformed into something big that is not only helping us a lot now in particular but other women of Nyamirambo in general.”

She says that all the women are now literate; four of them have achieved university education while some are at the secondary level of education.

“Here, we help each other achieve our purposes in life. Those who have certain skills help one another. The educated ones help those who are uneducated. We are a close knit family with similar purposes in life and our achievements here have made us even closer.”

She notes that the centre has helped its members accomplish a lot in life and they are now fully involved in the day to day running of its activities. “It helped me and three others get our Bachelor’s degree and others at least formal education. This is our home and we cannot run away from it. Each member participates at different levels to ensure that our original dreams are ultimately realised.

To achieve its objectives, the centre is involved in educational and training activities with English and literacy courses, ICT trainings and entrepreneurship among others. Some of the handicrafts and art objects like banana earrings are displayed in one of the buildings adjacent to the workshop.

She adds that the centre also now caters for a number of women in Nyamirambo who use their resources like classrooms and training materials to achieve similar goals.

“In future, we plan to establish a library where those women who want to read can come and do so. Women education and empowerment are some of the objectives we had when we came together to start the group and we’ll make sure that the dream is realised.” 

Umugeni says that in current society it’s not good for women to be left behind when their men go to look for bread. “Women should do enough to supplement what their husbands have managed to come back home with since the world has now changed.”

She says that some years back, two women from Slovenia visited the centre and were quite impressed by the work they were doing. It’s these women who are now the backbone of the centre with their sponsorship. They also get sponsorship from a Slovenian institute to run their activities and programmes.

Mrs. Amina Murekate, a group member, says that the centre has helped her so much since she can now afford to educate her children. “We can now sit back and look at the past with pride in our hearts that the idea we started some six years ago is now bearing fruits.”

Mrs. Mukeshimana, also a group member, says that the centre has helped her achieve some things she never knew she could. “It has helped me get exposure. Since I came here I interact with a number of people, both from local and international communities.”

She adds that she is now able to comfortably educate her children and pay insurance for herself and the rest of her family. “I’m fine, happy and contented here,” she adds with a chuckle.

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