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Repeatedly beaten and bitter in the past, today Grace is better and her future brighter

Thursday, August 15, 2013 - 12:08

Administrator 12.00

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Mary Grace Mukashema’s long walk to the freedom and dignity that she enjoys today has been bumpy and stormy. The forty one year old mother of four, resident of Bunyeshwa in Nyanza district, Southern Province got married at age 16, and what she thought would be a bliss turned into a nightmare when she delayed to give birth.

“My husband became violent and arrogant. But even when I gave birth, he refused to buy clothes for the baby. Nurses asked him for the clothes when I was in labour but he arrogantly told them to ask me. ‘After all, even your parents know that you are about to give birth, why didn’t they do anything to help you out?’ was his mean reply”

Mukashema continues; “I found myself between a rock and a hard place because even when I went to my parents for help, they said that my husband will look at it as a way of putting him down and sending him a message that he cannot adequately manage his home. So when I came back home, my husband was so furious that I have exposed his weaknesses to other people. He gave me a thorough beating.

“So we lived that life of disagreement for some time. Meanwhile, the baby was growing and help from him was not forthcoming. So when I got better, I started looking out for some odd jobs that I could do. I could dig people’s gardens, to get money for buying milk for the baby, clothes and food. One day he came back home when he was so drunk and smashed the baby  on the wall. He bled profusely, so I rushed him to the hospital. At another time, when I was tilling someone’s garden, the baby was exposed to a poisonous herb where I had put him to rest, and got a deadly skin rush. Up to today, the scars are prominent on his body.”

Mukashema’s woes were not about to end. The beatings were only getting amplified. After giving birth to two other children in such circumstances, she decided that enough was enough. She tried to use traditional family planning methods to stop producing, but in vain. “When my husband learnt that I was engaging some family planning methods, he burnt me with very hot water. Meanwhile, our children had grown to become adults, but he did not stop being abusive, drunk and violent. So in 1998 we parted ways. But in those early days of separation, even when he found me on the way going somewhere, he could demand for sex and I had to run away from him.”

Mukashema took her children along after the separation. In the process of getting a solution from the local leaders, one day when she had gone to the sector offices she found other women whose stories of domestic violence were similar, others worse than hers. They shared the experiences, decided to get out of that quagmire, and formed a cooperative society—MproeDukunde- Inzuki Cooperative. “We opened up an account, and ActionAid through Faith Vision Association gave every member a donation of RwF50,000 in 2007 as start-up capital. Today we are engaged in apiculture, with nine modern hives and 18 traditional ones, under our umbrella DukundeInzuki Cooperative. The membership stands at 50, all victims of gender-based violence. I started with petty trading. I could give my children some fruits and vegetables to hawk around. I also went back to school and completed Primary Six as a mature student. Then I sat for S.3 finals which I passed and joined A level  in 2011. I did well and will join university sometime to come.

“We started realizing profits, and I sent my children back to school. I now trade in beans as well. I have investedin cassava growing and trading, and ActionAid Rwanda gave me a cow in 2012.

Today Mukashema’s life is different. Asshe was planning to buy land where she could erect a house for her children, a friend, Godfrey Karema gave her a piece of land in Nyamagana, 5 kilometers north of Nyanza town. She has mobilized her colleagues to mould bricks and started building.File 178

She has now embarked on teaching adults; there is a group she teaches how to read and write and the she teaches English to the second group. “I was given a new life through those acts of generosity, now it’s high time I, too, gave back with delight.”