Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Commission has demobilized and reintegrated many women ex-combatants, all of whom have received training in entrepreneurship, in addition to receiving reinsertion and reintegration grants.
Odeth Mukeshimana though not an ex-combatant has formerly worked for Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Commission as a receptionist.
A mother of two, Mukeshimana now owns a business at the famous Nyabugogo market.
The first thing you notice when you enter the market is the enthusiasm, and determination that everyone has in to make some little money before sunset.
Unlike shops in the city where the shopkeeper waits for you to either buy or leave, the market scenario is different.
With their persuasiveness, the sellers will make you go home convinced that what you have bought is the right thing and that you would look so wonderful in it.
The New Times spent half a day at Nyabugogo market getting a grip of the whole shopping experience.
It is interesting to learn that this market is divided in zones. Zone 3 goes by the ear catching name - America. This is a place where a lot can be found.
Mukeshimana who started her business on April 10th this year, says that she used to always shop her clothes from the America Zone. This was what compelled her to be a part of it.
“I always felt that I should be the one on the receiving end every time I looked at the money I left here,” she said.
She had managed to save some money from her previous job. When the organization restructured, she had saved up to Rwf 1.5 million to start a business.
In Nyabugogo market, Mukeshimana is one of the few lucky business women who have managed to buy and own a stall. This for her has been much more rewarding than renting it from the owners at Rwf 20,000 per month.
Tall, light and well dressed, Mukeshimana has become popular among many within the American zone.
This has worked in her favour given that she also easily attracted more customers and this continuously disrupted the interview.
From her line of duty, attending to hawkers within, her family and friends, she is a busy lady.“I am happy with what I have become. I am now a better wife and a better mother.”
According to Mukeshimana, her bank account is now in regular operation- she now deposits more cash rather than the previous frequent withdrawals. She can also now afford to get a business loan from her savings.
While she spoke of her success, her partner in the business Patience Mutesi could not help but interrupt. She said that the Government needed to reduce on the taxes charged on second hand clothes since most of the women earn a living from the business. “I pay Rwf 650 per kilo of jeans or Rwf 350 per piece.”
Mutesi rents a stall from Mukeshimana. She says on a good day she can go home with up to Rwf 50,000 in her pockets.
Majority of the wholesalers in Nyabugogo market import the secondhand clothes from China, Dubai and Italy. Then they sell to the retailers in the same market.
Mukeshimana’s goal is to join the wholesalers group by December this year. Currently, she gets her clothes from Kampala, Uganda.
“Due to demand, I have slowly introduced men’s wear but her customers remain the same ladies who buy for their male counterparts.”
The funniest thing is that according to the sellers, one can always tell a potential buyer and a ‘Musawo’ (doctor in Luganda).
Curious to understand the name, she explained that ‘doctors’ only examine a patient, find out their health history, ask so many questions and sometimes not come up with any diagnosis. “These are just depressed young people who come to waste time at the market,” she joked.
While we sat down for a soda to cool the extreme heat at the market, one female ‘doctor’ appears and she has one specific kind of top that she is looking for.
“I am looking for a long top which I can wear over the weekend with tights,” she said.
Mukeshimana whispers and identifies her as just an examiner. After an hour of trying out heaps of clothes, after being given all colours of the rainbow, the customer eventually that said they fitted well but they did not have the colour that she was looking for.
“This happens quite a lot but one is forced to smile at all customers since he or she might become your best customer later because of your good customer service. It is a tasking job but rewarding” she said.