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Three Rwandan Mothers I Met on the Women’s Opportunity Network (WON) Insight Trip

By Robin Ussery

I recently returned from a week-long Insight Trip to Rwanda with a group of Women’s Opportunity Network (WON) supporters from the U.K. and the U.S. We traveled in Kigali and to rural villages, visiting with clients and local staff, attending Trust Group meetings, and getting to know how Opportunity’s Rwandan clients live and work. Now that we’re just three days out from Mother’s Day in the U.S., my thoughts turn to the women clients and mothers we met. Talking to them reminds me that moms everywhere are basically the same: we all want the chance to make a better life for our children, being sure they have food, shelter and a good education. In the post below, I will introduce you to just three of the mothers we met in the village of Ntunga, at the weekly meeting of the “Those Who Trust Each Other” Trust Group.

Trust Group treasurer Unayezu (left) and president Mubonjyamema (center), with another client at right, share their stories.The “Those Who Trust Each Other” Trust Group started 11 years ago. The 14 members of the group receive microfinance loans to grow their businesses selling a variety of products including bananas, beans, veggies, and sorghum, and there’s even a butcher! They meet weekly in Ntunga with their Opportunity Rwanda loan officer, who travels out to advise them on their businesses, and to collect and process their loan repayments.

Meet Mubonjyamema Ephiphamie

Client Mubonjyamema is the president of the Trust Group. She provides for her family selling sorghum, ground nuts and beans, and with the income from her growing business she was able to build a long house with four front and back rooms with separate entrances that she rents out to four families. Each family operates a business out of their own front room, and then lives in the back. Mubonjyamema’s hard work is paying off and she proudly told us that she’s now able to send all five of her children to school.

Meet Unayezu Philomene

Unayezu is the treasurer of the group. She’s a widow whose husband was killed in the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. Unayezu’s three daughters are in school and one has even completed high school. She also has two sons currently in secondary school. Unayezu is on her second loan, which she’s using to grow her business selling green bananas. She was able to build a house after one year at her business and has now installed electricity. She’s working hard to provide a better life for her children, and she’s doing it all on her own!

Meet Mukamuhizi Alphonsine

Mukamuhizi Alphonsine shyly but proudly told us about her success selling salt, sugar and soap, and how she can now contribute to her family finances.Mukamuhizi is a lovely, soft-spoken woman in a yellow and orange dress and a stunning headdress. She shared with us how her first microfinance loan has enabled her to buy salt and sugar to sell, and with her growing profits she’s now added soap to her inventory too. Mukamuhizi’s success enabled her to put a concrete floor in her home, make repairs, install electricity, and buy new furniture. She talked about how she can now provide for her family and even has a little left over to buy nice fabric for herself without having to burden her husband to buy it for her. She is obviously proud of her success–her family is better-off because of her.

Though the women in the group say they don’t celebrate Mother’s Day as we do in the U.S. and U.K., they did celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, which I thought was wonderful. I asked the entire group what qualities make a good mother. Here is what they told me:

  • “A good mother is someone who can raise children with good values.”
  • “A good mother respects herself.”
  • “She can live in peace with her relatives.”
  • “A good mother teaches her children to respect others and themselves.”

Their answers showed me that all mothers–no matter their life experiences, nationality or income–want similar things. This was affirmed when we spoke to the women in another Trust Group later that same day, who told us a good mother had love for her family and for God, and she looks for ways to promote family, self-advancement, progress and hospitality. Though I’ve now returned to the U.S., these women I met have stayed with me. Wherever they are this Sunday, I want to wish them all a wonderful and happy Mother’s Day! I pray for their continued success and that they will always be able to provide for themselves and their children.

Celebrate the mothers and women in your life by creating a tribute patch on the Global Opportunity Quilt at opportunity.org/honormom. Your gift will impact the lives of Opportunity’s women clients in Rwanda and all over the world who are working hard to provide for their families.

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