Agnes Mukakarega from Nyagatare was living comfortably as a house wife. Her husband was the sole bread winner for the family and her main responsibility was to take care of her children and husband. When her husband, was arrested and taken to jail, it was the turning point in her life.
The New Times’ Stephen Rwembeho talked to Mukakarega about how her husband’s fate changed her life changed.
Q: Who is Agnes Mukakarega?
A: I am married with three children. As we speak, I am 49 years old.
Q: Tell us about the turning point in your life
A: It all started when my husband had to leave me temporary. He was the provider of the home. When he left me, I couldn’t watch my children starve. I took up a job in a super market, where I was getting paid Rwf 10,000 per month.
This was very little money. However, I still managed to save about Rwf 5,000 a month. When I accumulated Rwf 20,000, it was enough capital so I decided to start up my own business – selling butter.
Q: How much profit do you make?
A: For us who are not educated, we do not calculate all the details of calculating profit on a daily basis. But on average my sales are not less than Rwf 50,000 a day. It is from these sales that I tend to gauge my profits. Though I cannot tell you exactly what I get what I’m sure about is that I do not go wrong.
Q: Who are your clients?
A: My clients are from all over the country. Others are even from Uganda. My business premise may not be the best but it is strategically located. It is at a point where commuters to and from Nyagatare tend to stop over giving me the opportunity to sell my products.
Q: What lessons have you learned so far?
A: It is wrong for a woman to stay in the house and wait for a man to spoon feed her. You know most women in this area depend entirely on their husbands. This is a poor attitude that undermines the dignity of a woman as a human being.
I actually blame myself for having to wait for fate to shape me.
Q: What message do you have for your fellow women?
A: Women cannot claim equality with men when they are dependants. Achieving economic independence goes beyond the usual rhetoric about women emancipation. Women have got to start working. Sitting at home, reproducing and baby sitting will never emancipate them.
When I was struggling to come up with a working capital, I used to envy women who stayed at home with their children, waiting to be fed by their husbands. Today I don’t! In fact I pity them.
Q: Why did you choose to specialize in butter selling?
A: There a number of reasons but I would not like to tell them all to the media (she smiles shyly). However, I can briefly tell you is that when I was growing up, my mother used to do something similar, though it was at a low scale. Additionally, Nyagatare is dominated by cattle keepers. They are both my suppliers and clients as well. I enjoy this kind of trade.
Q: What do you when you are not at work?
A: I spend time with my kids. They need me and enjoy the food I cook for them. I am also a strong believer, so I attend church services.
Q: One last word?
A: I sincerely feel happy when I am at work all the day. I am able to feed and educate my children, a thing I would not have managed if I never took up the business. The work I am doing is demanding in a way. It calls for care and patience which I have learned to have.