Previously in the African setting, single parenthood had a very low percentage compared to other countries in the western world.
But today, the increase of single parenthood is not a phenomenon isolated only to the western world.
Here in Rwanda, one will find that the number of single parents is high because of different reasons. It is also common, that most single parents are mothers.
In any country, single parenthood arises because of marital problems that lead to divorce due. The couple is thus left with no option but a break-up or divorce.
However in Rwanda, the main cause of single parenthood is death or estrangement of spouses. Teenage pregnancies also lead to single parenthood as the girls give birth when they are too young to be married.
Apart from the AIDS epidemic, Africa is currently facing social fragmentation as women continue to suffer a high rate of teenage pregnancy.
Women single parents endure conditions of grinding poverty at a very early age with a few support systems because African communities consider care-giving and child-rearing the responsibility of the mother solely.
Men may live the life of a single parent but will not perform their roles and will instead shy away from their responsibilities as parents.
In most cases after divorce, women parents will insist on taking care of the children from the wrecked marriage while the male parents work on starting a new family with another woman and forgetting the children from the first marriage.
Many children in Rwanda have grown up without their fathers when they actually have them in their midst. In other parts of the developed world, many women become single parents and run households, just because their husbands have gone away to work in towns or across borders.
Many men died during the 1994 genocide and others died of AIDS-related diseases. Some women therefore became single parents after losing husbands and others became single parents due to increasing number of divorces as said earlier.
The uniqueness of divorce is that it is not only the marriage that disintegrates but also the children who get separated from one or both parents.
Rwanda is mainly a patriarchal society and children have consequently suffered greatly due to absent fathers. Men are not facing their patriarchal responsibility and this has had a profound effect on the collective consciousness of next generations in our country.
Strongly put, effects of divorce on children include the increasing possibility for child abuse and general exploitation. The increase of single parenthood in Africa has resulted to more orphans and street children as single parents opt to abandon their children because of extreme poverty.
Women who are single parents feel the stigma of being poor and unmarried, widowed or divorced and are under extreme pressure from the society. Single mothers who are looking for ways to support their children and who are very much willing to take huge risks to put some bread on the table are very vulnerable to prostitution and trafficking.
One single mother Alice Uwimana in Kyicukiro who managed to educate her children single handed was full of complaints.
"Single parents sometimes feel helpless and lonely because of the heavy responsibilities that they shoulder such as family expenses not to mention responsibilities in caring for their children. Single parents who think they are getting drowned on their responsibility may take vacation tour as a break from never ending duties," Uwimana said.
It’s therefore because of these conditions that the government and non-government organizations should offer immediate assistance by creating employment opportunities, education and vocation trainings for single parents.
Women in Rwanda, under different categories, especially single parents, have come up with organizations where they make crafts and sell the items in order to make a living. This helps single parents generate a regular income so that they can support their children. A number of single parents on this course are given grants to help them start-up their own businesses.
One of these organisations that have a big number of single mothers is KEZA, which is a Rwandan based high fashion accessories line with a focus on women’s jewellery. KEZA is owned and operated by Sisters of Rwanda, a non-profit organization ensuring justice, equality, and sustainable economic opportunities for Rwanda’s most vulnerable women.
"We are provided with safe working conditions and a positive atmosphere where women are treated with love and respect, free from physical and verbal abuse," says one of the employees.
The products are a representation of the beauty and uniqueness of Rwanda and the women that dwell within it. Employees are provided with health benefits and a salary that promotes financial independence.