Maria Mukandekezi is a 59 year old single widowed mother who lives with her grandchildren in RuhungaMiyaga village, Murundi sector, Karongi district. Mukandekezi recalls a time when she was living a miserable life. She was left to take care of 9 children when her husband passed away. She was very poor and could hardly afford the bare necessities. She did not have any land to farm and she made a meagre living through digging for other people in their gardens.
“My life was a sad tale even before when I was married; I was a sad lonely woman. My first husband used to beat me. He was very violent. Even my second husband was not any better. He would refuse to take care of his children and the burden of caring for all nine of them was on my shoulders. When they died, I could not afford school fees, medical insurance, even food was a hassle. Many times I would go to bed in tears because my children were hungry and I had nothing to give them” She asserts with a shudder.
However, in 2007 when she and a group of other women formed a cooperative known as TwizeraneMuzanga, her situation slowly started to change. First, she gained self-esteem and she started making some money but this was just the beginning. In the same year she joined the group, ActionAid Rwanda started empowering the group’s members including her. They were trained in sustainable agriculture and livestock farming. They were also sensitized on domestic violence. In addition AAR supported the 27 member rural women cooperative with livestock.
She used the knowledge which she had acquired from the trainings to become vocal and empowered. Today she is a Health Advisor and the National Women’s Council President at cell level. Through a pig she had received from ActionAid Rwanda she was later able to buy a cow. Today, she says she lives a life of triumph. “My life has changed life ever since I joined a cooperative in 2007. It has been 10 years of total transformation in my life, physically, mentally, financially and socially. Honestly, I could not have done this without ActionAid Rwanda helping our community.” She says with a smile.