My name is Mukakamanzi Theresa, I am 30 yrs old, I was born in a family of 9 children, 5 boys and 4 boys. I dropped out school because my parents could not afford tuition. The little they made out of selling potatoes and cassava from our small gardens they used to pay tuition for my brothers.
With no education and no job, I was forced to marry Rudasingwa Alexander at the early age of 19. My husband worked in the capital Kigali making very little to support our new family. While he went to the city, I stayed home to care for our children and he came home once a month, sometimes once in two months. If my husband didn’t come home for many days, the children and I went hungry for days. We couldn’t afford any decent clothes, which meant we could not go to any community events or church. Sometimes I had to borrow from my mother.
In 2003, when Gahaya Links came to my home village to mobilize women into weaving, I had nothing, no food or even any good clothes to wear to the meeting; I had to borrow from my mother. At the meeting, we were educated on the importance of mastering our skills to earn an income. The first basket sales bought me a piece of Kitenge, which I used to make my first dress with income from my hands. I started to put extra hours in weaving because I had no fertile land and I started earning more than the women in my group. Later, I was elected President of our cooperative Kopabanya. I later became a Master Weaver and Gahaya Links started paying me for training women in my cooperative. With my new income, I bought clothes, a mattress and a new blanket. I started buying hens and goats, which I sold and bought a cow. When my husband returned home after a while, he saw a new woman, well dressed, sleeping on a mattress and owning a cow for our family. My husband decided to move back and work from home. With my basket income I bought him a bicycle, which he uses to take my mobile phone for charging at the nearby trading center and also to collect raw materials for me. He now respects me as his wife. We have a savings account, we pay our health insurance every year and our children are well fed. I am a role model of change in my village, thanks to Gahaya Links and all who buy our baskets in America.