The Empowering Vulnerable Genocide Widows in Karongi and Rutsiro Districts to Alleviate Extreme Poverty (EVKREP) project will empower 400 vulnerable genocide widows and 1,200 of their dependents in Karongi and Rutsiro District of Rwanda’s Western Province to:
- Alleviate their poverty by ensuring they have the skills, resources and confidence to generate income. This will be achieved by forming and training Income Generating Activities (IGA) groups to start saving, develop viable businesses, and access capital to set up and scale businesses.
- Reduce vulnerability, build the confidence and improve the wellbeing by empowering participants to take greater control of their lives and to participate more fully in the project activities through counselling support.
- Improve food security and sustainable energy for the most vulnerable, in particular those who are elderly and affected by HIV, through provision and training in subsistence gardens, solar lamps and clean cookstoves.
Through previous joint projects, and our 2019-20 EVKEP project funded by the Addax & Oryx Foundation, we have proven that IGA group training, new business development, incentivising savings and providing access to loans, together sustainably generates income even for vulnerable genocide widows. Provision of subsistence gardens, and training to maintain them, cultivates nutritious food which alleviates hunger and malnutrition. Clean cookstoves and solar lamps provide access to a more affordable, healthy and sustainable energy source. Counselling groups foster increased resilience and confidence in a better future. When these components are integrated, as we propose to roll-out again through EVKREP – to engage widows in Karongi which we were not able to reach through EVKEP, as well as widows in the neighbouring district of Rutsiro – we prove that this can be transformative.
SURF and AVEGA have developed an IGA model using business students as Cooperative Business Development Assistants (CBDs) to train and support the widows – helping them to develop and strengthen their business plans, access capital (through funding made available through our microfinance bank partner, Urwego Bank Ltd (UBL)) and launch their ventures to be sustainable and profitable. This network of CBDs will be supported through a community-based model of 13 teams of two volunteers working across the 26 sectors of Karongi and Rutsiro (with each team covering two sectors) which will deliver supplementary support to widows:
1. Community volunteers will undertake home visits to widows, recording and reporting on their status, and providing assistance in particular in how to exploit subsistence gardening for small income and good nutrition.
2. Volunteer Counsellors trained in basic counselling techniques who support AVEGA’s professional counsellor to support the mental health of widows, which has proven to be critical in securing the effective participation of widows in IGAs.
The evidence-based approach to alleviate poverty and strengthen resilience serves as the core of this project. The volunteer network of stronger widows is a cost-effective model of outreach to deliver peer support and training to empower participants to develop a livelihood, improve their mental health and address their immediate basic needs (to ensure their food and energy security).
It will build on the success of our 2019-20 grant from the Addax & Oryx Foundation of Empowering Vulnerable Genocide Widows in Karongi District to Alleviate Extreme Poverty (EVKEP) which positively impacted 770 vulnerable genocide widows and 2,606 of their dependents. This project will engage most of the 500 widows in Karongi which we were not able to reach through EVKEP, and 305 widows in Rutsiro.
The project formally kicks off on 1st July 2021, with a comprehensive survey mapping all widows, and their dependents, across the two districts, the training of the volunteer team which will be leading the outreach to project participants.