Cesarie Uwizeyimana says about her life before joining a self-help group (SHG) “I lived in extremely poverty and we had bad living conditions because we were not able to get enough food due to the infertile soil and lack of livestock, we could not easily get clothes or medical treatment, my children did not attend school due to lack of water”. This reality of life is the case for many families in Rwanda, but now thanks to AEE and KNH, this is not the case for Cesarie and many others.
The turning moment for Cesarie was when she heard about and joined a SHG. This seemingly simple act of joining a group of women from a similar background started a transformation that started first with education, followed by gaining friends and community and finally in opening her mind and potential in creating small scale businesses.
Over the preceding years since she joined in 2013 so much has changed. One of the first group activities is for the women to decide how much each of them can save per week, and then the whole groups commits to giving this amount, to form an internal bank which they then can withdraw from to start commercial activities. For Cesarie and her group they all decided that they could save 100RWF ($0.12 US) per week. From this collective savings, she then started to borrow 200RWF ($0.25 US) to undertake small business activities, but slowly built up the skills a confidence to borrow 20,000RWF ($25 US) and this increase in capital allowed her to start a small business of trading sorghum beer and germinating sorghum. This business gave her enough capital to build a standalone house separate from the animals and smoky cooking stove, with a roof that allowed her to collect rain water on. Now that water was more readily available the struggle off collecting water every day, (a job the previously prevented the children from going to school) was reduced allowing the kids to attend school as well as improving the hygiene of the family, which in turn reduced illnesses.
She has now been able to buy and raise pigs, which gives her a way to increase her capital at the same time as using the animals waste to fertilize her gardens increasing production, which allows the family to eat better and to sell the excess. “I could not be like this If I did not join a Self Help Group” is a simple statement by Cesarie but the changes that have happened and that will continue to happen are truly life changing.