Six months have passed since the initiation of the Genocide Widows Empowerment Project (GWEP), the wraparound project funded with a three-year grant from Big Lottery Fund in order to transform the lives of widowed survivors in the Western Province of Rwanda in partnership with AVEGA Agahozo. GWEP replicates the successful livelihood development model of our HIV+ Survivors Integration Project and Widowed Survivors Empowerment Project, by providing income generating training, improving mental health and addressing issues of legal rights. The project has enabled support to be extended to widows in the five districts of the Western Province that WSEP had not reached.
Last week, we visited the Twihangane (“Let us come together”) and Twitezembere (“Let us develop together”) groups in Rubavu district. Both groups finished their business training at the end of May, and are pooling their group savings so that they can apply for the loan as a group.
Even though they haven’t taken a loan yet, the groups exclaimed that they’d already noticed a difference in their livelihoods,
“Something has changed. Before we were doing business but we were doing it badly. Now whenever we get profit, we deposit the money in the bank. We’ve developed this culture of saving that we didn’t have before. Knowing we have to save is helping to open our minds, and to change the way we do business.”
Group members learned to calculate profit and loss, and how to analyze the market so that they choose businesses that are profitable. Those that have pre-existing businesses have already seen an increase in income, because the training has taught them how to treat customers.
When asked what the most useful part of the training is, one widowed man said,
“I learned that you have to love the work that you do. Whatever work you do, your heart has to be in it.”
As the groups prepare to submit their business proposals to the bank, they are hopeful that the loans they receive will help them put what they’ve learned into practice.
Nasalie Mukazayire is planning to start selling clothes in the market.
“Now that I have something to do with my time, I know the future will be better. I would like to be able to keep increasing my stock and selling larger portions of clothes every day. “
Since its inception in December, GWEP has provided 256 widows in the Western Province with training in income generating activities, cooperative formation and entrepreneurship. The AVEGA IGA assistants are currently forming widows into additional groups, in order to start a new round of trainings in the coming month. Additionally, AVEGA counselors and psychosocial animateurs have been able to sensitise 2,907 individuals on trauma and counseling. The AVEGA legal officer has also been working to document and orient legal cases, so that widows are able to enforce their rights and resolve outstanding issues related to land, property and Gacaca.
As such, GWEP is ahead of its targets for the three-year project, and we look forward to continuing to progress the work ahead in partnership with AVEGA.