Having been in marriage for over ten years, Franswazi Umulisa, did not have any economic contribution to her family`s welfare or development. She could only get involved in housework, take care of the children and wait for the husband to bring bread home.
“It was not that I was a lazy wife or one who is not interested in work, but it was about what exactly to do since I had no skills in any field of work,” Umulisa narrated.
The mother of five added that acquiring skills of life would have been the only thing that would have helped her, but that she had not also got the chance for any such training.
She said that at times, she sympathized with her husband being the only person to provide for such a big family, but that she could do nothing to help or supplement his efforts.
One day, she said that a friend connected her to a group of women to learn or get trained in handcraft mainly basket weaving.
It took her about two to three months to become competent. Umulisa is just one of the 300 women who have acquired life skills with Aspire—a local NGO operating in Gisozi Sector, Gasabo district.
The NGO`s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Founder, Peace Ruzage, said that the initiative of starting the organization was mainly to support illiterate women to start income generating activities or create their own jobs.
“We officially started operating in 2009 and we started with women who had no skills and not engaged in any form of work, although we also involved some who were operating on streets or venders as it was illegal and risky for women to operate in such an environment,” said Ruzage.
She explained that since the organization was dealing with or training people above 30 years of age, they could not be trained to either offer services to others like in restaurants, hotels or any other similar work.
Ruzage added that it would be so hard for them to acquire such jobs based on even certain family responsibilities they have.
Training at the organization`s centre has since incorporated many other works that include professional hair dressing, cooking, bakery and entrepreneurship skills, all geared at self employment.
It also involves self discipline, hygiene, family reproductive health and Gender Based Violence (GBV), programmes that are carried out in collaboration with other partners that also include ‘Haguruka’ and the Rwanda Men`s Resource Centre (RWAMREC).
“We realized that it will not be easy for these mothers to effectively put in practice what we train them, without such skills or when they have family problems like misunderstandings with their partners hence conducting special trainings aimed at resolving family issues,” she said.
The organization developed a programme that also engages husbands of these wives in solving family issues and avoiding GBV cases.
Women who have since acquired skills have managed to come up with a cooperative to collectively benefit from their skills. The cooperative called Tujembere started operating in 2010 with over 130 women who have different skills.
Speaking to The Sunday Times, the head of the cooperative, Jeanne d`Arc Mukamurerwa, said that coming together has helped them in various ways.
She pointed out that the cooperative has improved lives of the members and that they are working even harder than ever before.
“Because we are many, it is easy to market our products because our clients trust us, they even pay in advance after placing orders especially with art craft work,” Mukamurerwa said.
She added that just like for any one else who will be starting a business; it was not an easy beginning especially in getting market for their products.
“The most important thing in any form of business is having the trust and providing quality services or doing whatever it takes to produce the best products for your clients,” she said.
Although Mukamurera said team work has made their cooperative successful, she attributes it all to Aspire.
She observes that they would not have moved this far with out support of Aspire in form of making follow-ups and coming up with marketing strategies for their products.
“Single mothers are now paying their rent, taking care of their families and coming up with different economic activities to supplement their income from the work they do for the cooperative,” she said.