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REBUILDING FROM TEARS: TALES OF SURVIVAL FROM THE WOMEN OF RWANDA
Initially, the Association received support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Development and Peace, a Canadian church organization which had enabled them to start and to expand their activities. Some of their achievements include
According to Ms. Mukarutamu, president of Duhozanye, these activities have benefited over 15,000 people among the local population across 13 sectors.
The Association continues to play a significant role in the political sphere and socio-economic development of the region. Duhozanye has empowered many women to take on leadership responsibility at national and local levels. Some of them have become members of Parliament, district mayors and others have been elected in women’s councils or serve as board members. The Association also plays an important role in civil society and continues to advocate for the rights of other widows and other vulnerable groups.
Ms. Mukarutamu emphasized that the Association has a standing principle that every gain or revenue should be used to generate additional income. Thanks to that, Duhozanye now runs some highly profitable income generating activities, the profit of which is used to fund their charitable interventions. For example, they have been selected as retailers of BRALIRWA, a national beverage plant. The women continue to expand their entrepreneurial vision and are embarking on a much bigger agro-processing project currently under study, which has the potential to benefit the entire Southern Province. These highly empowered women plan to set up a processing plant for sunflower oil and production of feeds for animals. As a first step, they have started mobilizing the local population to invest in growing sunflowers so that they can buy the seeds from them for processing. Sunflower is credited to be a high value product in Rwanda with a high potential for increasing many farmers’ income. However to make this initiative happen they need to mobilize funds.
As the Association and its interventions expand, the management of Duhozanye will require more sophisticated skills. Therefore, there is need to support its capacity strengthening in order to build an efficient management system. Equally important is the enhancement of their entrepreneurship development program.
Fourteen years after the genocide, the strides made by Duhozanye in the political and social-economic empowerment of Rwandan women are enormous. With strong resilience, these women were able to overcome the unthinkable and to make a difference in their lives and for their country.
by Claire Umubyeyi