By Rene Anthere Rwanyange
The legacy of the Genocide Against Tutsis in Rwanda of 1994 meant that it was hard for Rwankuba women in Gatsibo district to build their social relationships despite being neighbours and sharing similar livelihoods, hence their mutual cooperation through basket weaving became the milestone for their unity.
It is not far from Kigali to Rwamagana, taking forty minutes through Muhazi lake using Ruhunda port and one hour forty minutes using the main road from Rwamagana to Rwankuba via Kiramuruzi center where you find the women association ‘Agaseke k’amahoro’(Basket of Peace) consisting of twenty members, based in Gatsibo district, Murambi sector, Rwankuba cell, Nyagasambu village.
Those women are supported by The Mustard Seed Institute, a social enterprise aimed at empowering local people especially rural women in Murambi sector.
The journey toward unity and peace for these women resulted from basket weaving according to the members of Agaseke k’amahoro. They say that they have united for peace and achieved social coherence.
Speaking to Panorama, Veneranda Mukagatete, 53, a mother of four children is the chairperson of Agaseke k’amahoro association said they used to weave traditional baskets and pullover making as well as clothes design.
Incepted on September 16, 2017 by the support of The Mustard Seed Institute, Agaseke k’amahoro association helped the women to formulate one family and increased love among them.
“After being one team in the association, we became one person and we gained a lot including time management, knowledge, improving on our works, learning from each other, as well as avoiding jealous and stigma based on superiority,” said Mukagatete.
She continued saying that such a unity was accelerated by a weekly contribution of Rwf100 coin which helps them to give a loan to a member having a financial difficulty. The association has saved about Rwf 150,000.
“We were before living scattered as no one was a neighbour to her colleague, in fact our relationship was uncertain because we could even meet and share ideas like we actually do. At the moment we share constructive ideas and we can advise each other besides visiting our mates,” she added.
Pelagie Mukantabana, a genocide widow-survivor leaving with five children said that she was in sorrow and stigma, which became worse after losing her two children.
She said that she didn’t have any knowledge about basket weaving but she joined others in order to recover from sorrow and to gain her resilience.
She said it was hard for her to join Agaseke k’amahoro as she was not skilled in weaving.
“I hardly made a step. For one to join, we had to present our previous work, so, because myself I had nothing, I chose to buy two baskets and brought them; they immediately bought them because they were so nice. My choice was to buy the baskets and bring them, unfortunately, the one who supplied me the baskets also joined us in the association,” said Mukantabana.
However, Mukantabana did not give up, she started learning how to weave and it at first complicated her but her fellows encouraged her. Her first work was rejected, and she persisted to the second one. Within two weeks, she became the best one.
“Our unity is remarkable. We gained respect among others and I am now training others to step into the successful journey. I have no time to waste and I should look forward to development,” she added.
Venantie Mukantabana, a young girl aged 25 is a senior six graduate in Accountant. She joined Agaseke k’amahoro to learn how to weave.
“I did not know how to weave, I learnt it from here. I took the decision to support my knowledge with vocational training in weaving. I am proud of that,” Mukantabana noted.
Joselyne Uwajeneza, 38 years old mother of six children said that Agaseke k’amahoro helped her to extend her sociability and gain financial means to solve family issues. “I can now buy clothes for children and pay casual workers in my farm,” she said.
She said she helps her colleagues to apply weaving skills after her daily work.
Stated by Jean Nepo Sibomana, the founder, The Mustard Seed Institute organization started assisting rural women to remove the barriers of their histories and unite for social development.
The organization will soon establish a vocational training centre to empower local people through learning practical skills for income generation and assist them to find markets.
“We wish to transform Agaseke k’amahoro into a source of economic empowerment for local women artisans, and promote unity and peace. We are committed to working with these talented women to further develop their skills and connect them with a lucrative market in Australia, my mother country. This project can be a bridge between Australia and Rwanda and transform the lives of many Rwandan families.” Sabrina Joy Sibomana, Co-founder.