Rwandan women break traditional barriers: Now into road construction

The European Union funded Mulindi- Kabuga concrete road (6.2 km) project in Gasabo district, is set to benefit mostly, women who are often left out in development projects. What makes these women peculiar is that they are widows.
Francine giving an example of how to do it.
Francine giving an example of how to do it.

The European Union funded Mulindi- Kabuga concrete road (6.2 km) project in Gasabo district, is set to benefit mostly, women who are often left out in development projects. What makes these women peculiar is that they are widows.

The project, which is one of the EU’s development efforts in Rwanda, testifies that women are a formidable force in this country. At the project site, I met great women of this country who are sometimes forgotten.

The women do work that is traditionally meant for men; the women fetch water, push wheel-barrows full of stones and are engaged in road construction.

As a development partner, the EU Mission in Rwanda decided to enhance female participation in development programmes as a way of addressing poverty and facilitating rural development in the country.

Women constitute the majority of the work-force employed on the construction site of the Mulindi- Kabuga concrete road. It is not quite often that we see transparency in the allocation and spending of donor funds. 

In most cases when donors particularly in most parts of Africa commission money, two things happen; either a small percentage of the money given is spent on small projects without giving the desired output; or the other pathetic option is that nothing is done but the money is spent.

However, in Rwanda where government policy emphasizes accountability of public funds there is little room for the abuse of funds, thus making a difference in people’s lives.  Women working on the project have a livelihood boost as they afford to send their  children to school; are also able to provide for their families with basic needs such as food and shelter.

The project employs more women than men and specifically targeting widows who are the poorest and most vulnerable. Despite the fact that these women have children, they arrive very early for work with their children. Work begins early morning ending late afternoon. At the end of the day, each woman earns a minimum of 1600 RFW’s depending on the workload.

For all the women working on the project, there can be no better blessing from God. There is no doubt that this project has greatly enhanced the lives of these women. Through the project, the women have also gained practical knowledge on saving in banks.

Most of them use their savings to pay school fees and purchase property. Forty seven year old Christine Madam who has eight children says the project has given her a reason to live.

“When my husband died a few years ago, I took up all the responsibility of looking after our children. However, this was very hard for me because the only thing I could afford was to cultivate land for other people and get food for my children. Now with my savings and daily income, I can afford other things for my children. I have been able to put my children in school and buy them clothes,” she says. 

She adds that, “This month I will buy iron sheets for my new house. Work is very convenient because everybody is given what they can afford. I have two jobs, and when I am not working on the site, I deal with my own work.”

Women who are able to do very hard work that would otherwise be for men, earn frw.3000 a day. One of such woman on the site is Mukamurenzi Francine, a 35 year old window with two children, a builder and painter by training.

“I have always loved building and that is why I attended the training. I have worked on several sites before I joined this project. I decided to come and work here because women are given special attention. My earnings have helped me build a house and take my child to school,” she says.

Musabilimana Christine, a widow with 7 children has spent almost a year fetching water for road the project.

“Work is going on well; I have no problem doing a man’s job to earn a living. Work is allocated according to what one can handle. My life is now okay with a job. With my salary savings I can now afford to pay school fees for my children and meet the basic needs of my family since I have no man to help me,” Says Musabirimana.

According to Mr. Nzabandora Pascal the project engineer said that, working with women has made his work very easy because women are cooperative and committed to their work. 

“Employing women to do this job is a good thing because women don’t dodge work. They are committed to their work unlike men who are in most cases paid and just spend the whole night in the bar drinking and fail to turn up for work the next day.” he said.

It is through such projects that Rwanda will be able to address the problem of poverty affecting women more as they remain the poorest. Development assistance or aid should continue to advocate for gender equality and empowerment of women. If this is done, there is no doubt that development assistance to poor nations will meet its goals.


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