Nyabugogo Taxi Park at the outskirt of Kigali city in the east is a very busy and noisy place. The trading centre looks more or less like an amphitheatre, an arena, surrounded by steep cone-shaped hills. It is also Rwanda’s leading terminal for public transport commuters.
Nyabugogo resembles a circus caravan, it is colourful, and with bustling a lot of traffic noise. There is music coming from all corners played by radio cassette tape sellers as taxis hoot, touts calling passengers into the waiting mini buses that carry passengers on town service routes out of Kigali city.
Among the business operators in this trading centre of Rwanda is a lady by the names of Jane Nyirandenda is a shoe shiner aged 42 years. This lady is the ONLY shoe shiner in Nyabugogo and has been in this business for four and half years and has a lot to say about it.
Before Jane joined this business, she had tried a couple of options just to make ends meet. She lived in Uganda Kampala and worked as a porter on building sites and then as a gardener alongside other pet jobs.
However in 2001, she decided to come back home in Kigali and seek how best to make ends meet. Her first husband died in the 1994 Rwanda wrangles and therefore left for Uganda where she got married to a Ugandan.
Unfortunately, two years later, her second husband also died leaving her a widow with four children including those of her former husband. She therefore had her. With four of her own children and two others of her late brother to cater for, life seemed also impossible.
Her first born 23year old Rukundo Bridget finished her a senior six and the second born Sengiyuma aged 15 years lives in Makindye a suburb and is studying in Kampala.
Having come with some money from Uganda, she always thought of what to do but could not find any thing to invest because she had a pending burden to feed her family with the little she had and besides, it was Christmas time.
Misery continued until at one time she was left with only 3000 Frs. in the house. So the following morning of 1st January, 2003, she thought of working in the taxi park and yet she had only 2000 Frw on her.
She bought a brush and shoe polish and begun right away to move within Nyabugogo asking to clean and polish pedestrians’ shoes. On her first day of business, she was able to get 3000 Frw and 5000 Frw on her next day. She begun straight away saving 1000 Frw.
Everyday in her second week after acquiring all that was required as asked from her clients. She later hired a maid to look after her children at home while she was away. Everything went on well as business was picking up.
Jane could leave home early and come back in the late evening with some things for her children. She however said that it is challenging her being a woman to do such a job but decided not to take chances since daily bread was available on her table and children went to school.
She charges 100 Frw. per pair but a market due 500 Frw. are also imposed on her every day as well as other vendors who seem to be high compared to their capital. Thieves in the park have made her lose lots of clients since they steal pairs of shoes from her stall.
Some clients have lost confidence in her because they think that she is irresponsible with their property. She ends up paying back huge sums of money for the loss from her savings.
Of recent, she has just compensated 10,000 Frw for a new pair of shoes.
Many of her clients are amazed at courageous act of being the only woman in the nature of her business. For lunch, her maid could bring her food picked from home having it from the taxis awaiting their turns to load passengers. This was the only place free from much dust blown by the winds as she was operating from outside.
Her health seemed not important to her to understand the need for a protective gear against dust. She only had an umbrella to protect herself from the sun and rain.
Park authorities Atraco and the Kigali City Council has of recent denied them the opportunity to operate in the taxi park claiming that these vendors litter the park yet do not take the initiative to do any cleaning.
Only News vendors and phone operator under BCS commonly known “tuvugane” were given chance but only if in uniform. This caused a lot of tension and panic since this was her place of work where she earns a living.
Her only option was to get a kiosk to rent and operate from inside to keep on with business. She even decided to part with her maid in order to raise money for renting the kiosk. Amidst all those challenges, Jane has managed to save whatever little and get at least the best out of her sweats.
She explains with a smile on her face and asks if any one can believe her that all what she has was made out of this pet job in four and half years.
“I now own a residential house in Gatsata mabunobuno,” she explains. This was bought in instalments till when I finished the last payments early this year.
Her children and even those of the late brother all go to school. The first born finished her senior six last year and now saving to make her join technical.
She attributes her success to God and her hardworking. She said, “When you are down to nothing, God is up to something. So there is no need to give up in life”.
“The things that come to those that wait may be the things left by those who got there first”, she said.
Even though business does not move smoothly like before, she is willing to endure. She promises to save and take her daughter to a technical school, buy another house as well as raise school fees for all the other children till when they all finish.