Dorosera Mukagahima made our long two-hour bus ride worth the trek to her remote village. She’s the elected treasurer in her Trust Group of about 30, mostly women. In her business she buys and sells goats—about three at a time. She proudly told us of her sturdy mud brick home with a metal roof, situated on an acre of land that she owns.
Life hasn’t always been this good. She explained that a couple years ago when she joined the Trust Group her “brain was closed.” She says she was confused, with low self-esteem and without direction or hope. She lived in a grass, thatched hut where she cared for her sick husband and their four children who were all attending primary school.
Her fortunes began to change with her first Opportunity loan of only $33, which enabled her to start selling juice that she makes from bananas. Within four months she paid off her loan and took out a larger one to expand her business. By the third loan cycle, she could afford to make the mud bricks she eventually used to build her new house. Inspired by the success of the others in her group she says she’s no longer afraid to take larger loans and make investments.
Our group of travelers asked her several questions, one of them inquiring about the influence of her Trust Group on the progress of her business. She was quick to respond. Before her loan, as a woman she could not leave her home or spend time with others unless accompanied by her husband. Though those traditional practices are discouraged by the government, many rural women still live within those boundaries today.
Now she is able to be out running her business or meeting with the other Trust Group members. Seeing the added income to the family, her husband welcomes her participation. When she hears the stories from the other group members, she says, it encourages her to “think beyond where she is and what she can accomplish.” The interpersonal skills she has learned in the group, she has taken home and used in her family.
The next day as we took our long bus ride, several in our group commented on the strength, camaraderie and empowerment these Trust Group members gained from working and meeting together. Perhaps here in Rwanda the group dynamic is especially powerful, as members rebuild their lives in the wake of the genocide. Knowing that this genocide pitted neighbor against neighbor, it’s certainly possible that some family members of those in this Trust Group were victims of atrocities inflicted by other families represented in the group. Coming together every week helps brings healing and support like little else can. It is clear to all of us that microfinance is playing a significant role in the restoration of Rwanda.
Mark Lutz, our Senior VP of Global Philanthropy, wrote this post last week while traveling to Rwanda and Uganda with Opportunity supporters to see firsthand the impact of our Banking on Africa campaign. Stay tuned to the Opportunity Blog for more posts from their exciting trip.