Jenette is the founder of a small group of business women in Musanze, each on her third round of micro-finance through ALARM. Encouraged by the benefits of functioning as a group instead of as individuals, they have formed the Social Blessings Women’s Group, of which Jenette is president. There are 26 women in this group, and they meet monthly to encourage one another, to sing and pray, problem-solve and solution-share. They have been together for two years, and their mission is to empower women and young girls toward business ownership.
In the group, you will find women running canteens, small farms (food & rabbits!), market stands, and tailoring shops. J and I were able to spend a couple of days visiting six women to learn about their businesses. As we visited, we learned that two of the women are widows caring for a collective 10 kids and two orphans between them; two of the women are HIV positive also caring for their own kids and three orphans; two are the sole earners in their families, and four women are supplemental earners. All have given permission for us to share their stories and photos.
In addition to the monthly fellowship and encouragement the association offers, each woman gives a small amount of weekly profit to a mutual fund, allowing the group to celebrate happy events in each other’s lives, like Christmas parties, birthdays and weddings, or to help with illness and financial distress when needed. In two years, the group has collected $800,000 RWF, which is about $1500 USD, has hosted many celebrations, workshops and conferences, and provided assistance to those in need. The women report their group to be such a success, their husbands have tried to get into the group, because they so admire the women’s entrepreneurship and progress. They are also eager for the social events, because there is sure to be good meat, music and fellowship.
ALARM rents a portion of the World Relief building in Musanze for the women to gather each month, offers intermittent trainings for the women, and is currently collecting funds to provide a fourth round of micro-finance for those who want to continue to grow their businesses.
Jenette describes how the group came to form under ALARM’s sponsorship: “I knew that ALARM had a Community Transformation ministry, and I knew they were running a business center. So I went there and introduced myself. I asked how we could start a women’s group here in Musanze. ALARM connected me with a women’s group in Kigali they were working with and told us they would come help us start a similar group in our own town. The staff from ALARM began coming to train us here, we strengthened in numbers, and together came up with a group name: Social Blessings Women’s Group. We then elected an administration committee, and we have been working with ALARM from that day on.”
How about some individual stories?
Domothila is married with three sons and serves as the Treasurer for the Social Blessings Women’s Group. She operates a small canteen at the High School selling goodies, personal items, and materials for school: soap, milk, Fanta, exercise books, bread, etc. She has been blessed by the loans given through ALARM to “boost and increase” her business. On her first loan, she bought some milk and small items to sell in the canteen. On the second round, she purchased a small fridge and began selling cold drinks. Her hope is to ultimately purchase a photocopy machine.
Godelive is the Group’s accountant. She is married with 3 kids and runs a tailoring business. She has used her loans to purchase a special sewing machine that does detailed embroidery.
Marie Claire is a shopkeeper with nine kids. Nine! She sells snacks, sugar, rice, tomato sauce, potato, sweet potato, banana, soap, cabbage, biscuits.
Theresie is a widow with five kids, and she serves as a counseling adviser for the Group. She is also a tailor, has purchased a sewing machine, and uses her income to pay school fees for kids and maintain her household.
Jenette, as mentioned above, is the president of the Group and is married with kids. On her first round of micro-finance, she purchased Irish potato seeds, 3 rabbits and a pig. On her second round, she purchased a sewing machine, corn and sorghum, and she reports the pig gave manure, which has enhanced her farming. She is now up to 15 rabbits and two pigs, harvested 5 bags of corn, and continues to farm.
Laureuce is a mom to three kids and is also a student sponsoring herself through school on her business profits. She is a tailor, sells clothing, and used her initial loan to purchase a sewing machine.
Sada is also a shopkeeper selling many of the same items listed above, and is married with no kids. The visit to her canteen was unique, in that she personally showed us how to prepare two different types of beer: light beer for the Christians, and strong beer for everyone else…!
Sofie is a farmer and runs a market stand. She has 8 kids and is a supplemental earner in her family.
Devotha and Febrenie are both tailors. Devotha is a widow with 7 kids, the single provider for her family, and also cares for one orphan. Febrenie has four kids and cares for two orphans.
For the entire photo album, including portraits, shops, the “light beer”, market stands and behind-the-scenes photos, click here.