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

  1. Initiating livestock breeding and distributing cows, pigs and other livestock to the members as part of a restocking project. The association’s cow breeding project started with 87 cows and has now grown to over 400
  2. Conducting trainings on prevention of HIV/AIDS and providing counseling services
  3. Organizing professional and technical training for orphan children who do not have an opportunity to attend high school
  4. Training the community farming techniques for improved agricultural productivity through demonstration farms
  5. Initiating an economic empowerment activity called MUSO (mutuelle de solidarite), which allowed members to access credit. It is a system of money exchange by which a fixed amount of money is collected and distributed each month to designated members for personal us

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