Rwanda: Women Of Will Africa – Transforming Lives Through Resilience

By Donah Mbabazi

The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi left over one million Rwandans dead. Children were orphaned while in some cases entire families were completely wiped out. The Genocide left a dark cloud that many predicted doom and despair for the survivors.

But 22 years later, it is a story of victory and resilience which is closely associated with Genocide survivors. Many people including survivors have since set up initiatives to help the resilient survivors. Zoulika Mwenedata, the founder of Women of Will Africa is one of the many Rwandans who have helped survivors step out of the dark and rebuild their shattered lives.

Mwenedata, who is also a survivor of the Genocide, started Women of Will Africa (WOW), a non-profit organisation, with the aim of promoting women’s spirit of entrepreneurship, self-confidence and socio-economic emancipation to ensure a better welfare of women and their families, specifically the youth and children.

The organisation aims at encouraging women to create and grow sustainable businesses, promote gender equality and family wellbeing through progressive social and economic awareness.

Initiated in 2012, the organisation has managed to make a difference in the lives of many women. Several women have undergone training to acquire key life skills, financial and moral support; the organisation also offers free education to vulnerable children.

Though the beginning was hard, Mwenedata never gave up and only hoped for the best.

“We started small since we were only five people but we had faith. There was an event that was held in celebration of the late Aloysia Inyumba in 2013 that opened doors for us and from that day on, we never looked back,” Mwenedata recalls.

It was from that event that the organisation proved that it could actually do it, and it was from then that they managed to get different sponsors, according to Mwenedata.

“We were and always have been so lucky if I may say, very few times did I knock and the door wasn’t opened for me and I certainly believe that it has helped me a lot in reaching this step,” she says.

Inspiration behind WOW Africa

The generous heart of Mwenedata’s late mother inspired her from a tender age, and that’s how the 30-year-old hatched a dream of helping others.

“WOW is a woman of will and that woman was my mother, she only had seven biological children but we grew up in an even bigger family, our home was always full of people and among those people that mother cared for, some are leaders in the country today,” Mwenedata says.

“My mum’s character inspired me a lot, that’s why I got the urge to be the woman of will. I decided to take on what she did and even go beyond, and with this, she will forever be my role model,” remarked Mwenedata.

The organisation has been pivotal in empowering women towards development, and the youth are also catered for through provision of skills and promotion of what they do through advocacy and marketing.

One of the organisation’s projects titled ‘Rwandan Women Festival’ brings together women from co-operatives and those on the streets on different aspects. Some women who have already been empowered also go out and give motivational stories about the achievements they have made so far as a way of inspiring others.

Ziada Uzamushaka, a resident of Nyanza and a single mother of two, is one of the beneficiaries.

Uzamushaka, a tailor by profession, got a chance to receive training from WOW Africa and this not only boosted her business, but also improved the welfare of her family in the long run.

“I am a tailor and specialise in making bed sheets and table cloths. Becoming a part of WOW changed my life for the better. I gained more skills and now have a wider market for my products thanks to the organisation,” she says.

Uzamushaka didn’t let the organisation’s efforts go to waste; she set up a cooperative to ensure that her colleagues shared some of the benefits.

“I brought together some of my colleagues and we started a cooperative, all this wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for our guardian angel Zoulika and I would forever be thankful for that,” she adds.

Children are another important facet that the organisation focuses on.

This is through initiatives that discover, promote, develop, encourage and guide children to explore their talents. With this, the culture of creativity is inculcated in children when still young

The organisation believes that the tendency of ignoring children’s natural talents and gifts has a negative impact on performance in schools and other aspects of life.

Dieudonne Gakire, the Public Relations Officer of the organisation, says that even though Rwanda isn’t endowed with many natural resources, the native’s abilities can actually take the country’s development to the next level.

“Our country isn’t that much gifted with numerous natural resources but it still has to move forward and that shouldn’t hold us back. What we need is our efforts, but we need to start this from the grass root by giving our children guidance and inspiration,” Gakire says.

Angelique Uwanyirinka, a mother of three, applauds the efforts of the organisation saying that it will enable the young generation not to only have good education, but also to be equipped with other skills.

Other projects

Tubafashe Kwifasha is another project run by the organisation. It helps genocide survivors and widows cope with challenges like trauma through emotional support. Widows are also given trainings in skills like sewing, and making art and crafts.

“We buy sewing machines and also market the products through holding exhibitions,” says Mwenedata.

Mwenedata says Tubafashe Kwifasha is one of the projects that saw her dreams come true.

“This is a project I always dreamt of doing, the Genocide happened when I was eight years old and I lost my parents at a tender age.

“I had a lot of scars and always yearned to meet people with a similar experience because that way, I felt like I would heal. In the process, I managed to meet some survivors and this is how this project came to life,” Mwenedata says.

Through this project, people are healing and finding strength to move on with their lives.

Alphonsine Mukesha lost both her legs during the Genocide but in spite of her disability, she is living a gratifying life thanks to WOW Africa.

Mukesha was equipped with plaiting skills and that is how she earns a living; her story sets inspiration for many other beneficiaries to see that they also strive for the best.

“We teach women on how to execute various projects and also cover the different expenses like transport as a motivation for them,” Mwenedata points out.

Healthy Living, Healthy Country, is another of the organisation’s projects that deals with families by providing parenting skills and also, sensitising parents on issues likes drug abuse.

Challenges

Gakire says finance is one of the biggest challenges the organisation faces, however, they are yet to search for solutions to it.

“We have brilliant ideas that we want to spread all over the country, but we are limited by finances.

“The other thing is, some people are not willing to cooperate with us, for instance, some parents fear entrusting us with their kids thinking our intention is to sell off their children, which isn’t the case,” she says.

Mwenedata says that in spite of the various challenges, WOW Africa is set to meet its objectives. Among them is also to increase the number of children getting free education under the organisation from the current 20 children to at least 100.

Mwenedata concluding remark is that WOW Africa’s future plans include spreading to other countries because ‘we want it to be a voice for the whole of Africa so that they know about the strength we Rwandans possess’.

Source: allafrica.com

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