Everyday late at night, in a drunken state, Epimaque Hakizimana staggered into his home to give his wife an undeserved beating.
The beating was the daily gratitude the wife received for submissively waiting into the late hours of the night to serve her husband food.
But it wasn’t the drunkenness that induced and sustained his wife-battering habit.
Hakizimana confesses that it was his rigid low opinion he had on women.
At 52, it is as if his life has opened to a new chapter of life.
With shock in his eyes, he describes his past abusive behaviour as if he had lived it under some kind of spell.
“I can’t believe I did what I did in the past. I have had to pay for it,” he laments.
Married just out of his teens, he had already started wife-battering. Tired of the daily body mutilating beatings, the wife decided to divorce, the traditional way.
“She just woke up in the morning with our four children and left. I hear she now lives in Uganda,” he sadly narrates.
It was unfortunate that the family separation happened before Hakizimana reformed.
After his wife left, his drinking sprees didn’t immediately stop.
He said that it is then that he started considering the door to door sensitization on family planning and sustainable living conducted by NGOs.
“ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency), came to my house and taught me about family planning and planning ahead,” he recalls.
On hearing the message, he says that it was a considerably quick transformation process.
In a year he had dropped his huge appetite for alcohol and was fronting ADRA’s campaign on family planning, sustainable development and preventing gender based violence.
But though he doesn’t mention it, the loss of his wife and children might have greatly contributed to his change of lifestyle.
“I stopped drinking and started listening to their (ADRA) teaching. I made a decision to make my life better,” he said.
ADRA is a Non Government Organization (NGO) with a chapter in Rwanda spreading across 120 countries with an aim of transforming societies by ensuring sustainable solutions.
ADRA project has been operating in 5 sectors in Nyagatare district since 2003.
The most prominent achievements are encouraging the creation and expansion of over a hundred cooperatives that have over the years pooled people into cooperatives, taught them living in harmony and also sustainable economic ways of living.
Martin Rutasigwa project manager with ADRA says that they are currently reaching out to 24,000 people within the five sectors which are the largest and include Mukara, Gatunda, Karama, Rukomo and Kabagwe.
For a 52 year old man, who has recklessly lost his family with a seemingly unstoppable habit of abusing women under the addiction of alcohol for close to 20 years, you would think it were impossible to build a family based on totally differing principles.
But Hakizimana’s outlook is of a man with determination to lead his life as a changed man and in addition preach the reformist gospel to others though he won’t be able to recover the years he wasted in his past.
“When I changed my life, I saw the benefits and since then I have decided to tell others about the good things that come out of a planned life and proper conduct towards women,” he says with a smile.
Besides doing ardent sensitization on women’s rights, Hakizimana also took on family planning and incorporated it into his current life.
“I got another wife and we have a child. I won’t have another child until I get enough resources to prepare its coming,” he says expressing his keenness on family planning.
Emile Nkusi, head of Health Monitoring and Evaluation taskforce in the Ministry of Health disclosed that the intensification of the family planning campaign during the post genocide period though not statistically confirmed saw the increase of gender based violence amongst the illiterate populace.
“We got reports of men increasingly involved in gender based violence because women attempted to make decisions giving birth based on family planning,” he said.
During that period the use of family planning methods had dropped from 10 to 4 percent.
But it later picked up in 2005 and currently stands at 51 percent as they edge towards the 70 percent Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS).
According to Nkusi due to the dedicated family planning sensitization, the fertility rate has shifted from 7 to 5.
With a mixture of regret and sorrow on Hakizimana’s face, he explains that it wasn’t possible to have his first wife back since she had crossed the border to Uganda and therefore couldn’t go looking for her.
He learned his lesson.
Presently, he is also the vice president of Giri’suku cooperative where they make soap, grow crops commercially.
And in a poverty reduction drive their cooperative has started making soap which they distribute free of charge across their sector.