After the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Beatrice Bazayirwa was left with injuries that affected her arms, making them weak to a point where she can’t do any strenuous work.
Bazayirwa, who is 59-years-old, says she is lucky because she can at least do light activities like weaving, which has kept her going for a long time.
It is said that staying active boosts graceful ageing, and this is what a group of elderly women in Kimironko are doing.
After finishing their daily chores at home, a group of 10 senior women converge at their sector in the afternoon to make various crafts using different fabrics and materials.
They are all above the age of 50, but their age, they say, hasn’t stopped them from doing what they believe will be of benefit to them.
The women are survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and have found support in making baskets and other crafts. They do this to also supplement the income of their families.
“Together with my fellow widows, I find solace here, and what we do keeps us going. Whenever we are together, we share our stories, including the grievances that we go through, it also helps us come to terms with the past,” she says.
The best part about the cooperative, Bazayirwa says, is that they always give a helping hand to those who need it, which has seen them grow as a family.
Three years ago, before coming together to form the cooperative called Imbereheza, the women were working on an individual basis, something they say was not helpful.
Through the help of Indego Africa, a non-profit social enterprise that supports women in Rwanda through economic empowerment and education, they managed to form a cooperative.
In the cooperative, they weave baskets and have also learnt how to make necklaces, earrings and bracelets using pearls.
60-year-old Anastasie Mukayiranga says since she joined the cooperative, she has learnt new skills, and how to stay productive at her age.
She says sharing ideas with others has helped limit dullness and the feeling of being alone as you age, which is essential for her wellbeing.
The women acknowledge that forming this cooperative has taught them lot, which wouldn’t be the case if they were working individually. One of the main benefits, they say, is embracing the culture of saving. Depending on the size of the basket, their prices vary and they ensure they save at ten per cent of it.
Peace Uwampisuka, a 69-year-old, says she can’t find a better comforting place than her cooperative, adding that this is where she gets to interact with fellow women on different issues.
“As widows, this is the place where we console ourselves. It’s not just about weaving, a lot of stuff goes on here. As you can see, we are old and this kind of activity keeps our minds active and we find joy in meeting and doing something productive,” she says.
Uwampisuka adds that it also gives her strength to keep on moving with life.
For young people still waiting for job opportunities to come their way, Mukayiranga says they should look around and find something to do with their own hands.
“This is very important because I believe employment is a hustle to find, but if you have technical skills, you can create your own job using the tools you have, your hands being one of them,” she advises.
Due to Covid-19, they are not getting as many orders as they used to before, which is a huge setback. Their appeal, however, is to be given assistance regarding marketing their products.