Some days just make our work so rewarding and today was one of those days. We visited a group of about 200 inspirational women that form Revolving Fund (micro loan) groups in the hills of Rwanda, about three hours outside of Kigali. This project is only one year old, but it is already proving to be extremely successful and there are many women who stand out as absolute superstars!
Jeanette used her first loan to start growing and selling tomatoes and combined with another business she has, selling beans and other food stuff in the market, she was able to buy land. She got a second loan and used it to buy a cow. She used her money so wisely that in only one year she has tripled her income!
Julian showed up on the day our partner was screening for loan group members. She was told that she was too old to be a member, as they feared she would be unable to farm to pay back her loan. She persisted, saying that she is solely responsible for 4 grandchildren and that she is the poorest woman in the village. She insisted they give her a chance. They did. She used her loan to grow sweet potatoes, then another to buy a cow. The cow had a bull. She and her family are now able to eat two meals a day and all of the kids are going to school.
Tasiane is only 17 years old. She was unable to afford to go to secondary school (high school), which is not free. She decided to be a loan group member and she too used her loan to grow sweet potatoes. That enabled her to buy a pig and a goat. She also works on other peoples farms. Her one goal is to be able to finish school and in addition to all of that, she keeps the books for her group of around 20 members!
I could go on and on with the stories, but the thing I learned today, which was a first for me and really blew me away, was that one group that focuses on raising livestock decided to give each poor neighbor one pig or goat for free and then share the profits from all babies born. They want to elevate the whole community and not just themselves. This is what happens when women are empowered. The most wonderful unintentional benefits of this kind of project are that it builds self esteem and community.
Yes, it was an uplifting day…