In January 2019, Survivors Fund (SURF) was awarded a grant by the Southall Trust to extend a project originally funded by Comic Relief for one year (through to December 2019). The extension of the HIV+ Survivors Empowerment Project (SEP) sought to help genocide survivors, particularly rape survivors and those with HIV, to start income-generating projects and apply for microfinance loans in the Southern Province of Rwanda in partnership with AVEGA Agahozo.
The greatest successes of this project have been:
- Of the 1,382 vulnerable genocide survivors trained on entrepreneurship through the Comic Relief project, 171 of them have been able to access loans through Southall Trust support.
- A further 76 beneficiaries used their own savings to create small businesses.
- 565 benefited from counselling sessions over the past year. This additional mental health support enabled them to participate in income-generating activities.
Two of the key lessons learned were:
- The importance of developing discipline and confidence among participants when it comes to savings. It is important that beneficiaries learn to save and to manage their money responsibly before applying for bank loans. This helps to ensure a higher repayment rate.
- It is critical that socio-economic needs are met, such as housing and food, in order for participants to fully engage with the programme. It is difficult for people to manage money responsibly and to repay loans if they are hungry or worried about their living conditions.
Marie is one of the AVEGA members who benefited from the project. She received entrepreneurship training and access to a bank loan. Before receiving this loan, her business was dormant and she could not afford to pay herself medical insurance. After joining the project, she was able to use the money to restart her business. She is a market trader and also sells to other traders in Kigali.
“Before joining the project, I used to sell only tomatoes nearby the market as I could not afford space inside. It was very expensive. But now I have my space that I pay for every month and I managed to renovate my house and bought two goats. I can get no less than 30,000 francs [£30] of profit after all expenses each month, though it depends on the weather. I am happy. I do not need to beg someone for money. This project has changed my personal life and family as well.” Marie
A further illustration of the impact of the work is showcased through a short film we produced to mark the 25th Anniversary of the genocide, at https://vimeo.com/323593683
* Name has been changed to protect identity