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A Day in a Life in Rwanda

What is life like for women in our Stronger Women, Stronger Nations Program? Jeanine, a participant in the Rwanda program, gave us her journal to share with you.

5:30 AM, Morning Chores

Today I woke up, I cleaned the house and our compound. I prepared breakfast, woke up Keilla (5) and Jackson (2), and breastfed Jackson right away because he was unhappy. I made the beds just before serving breakfast to James (husband), and we enjoyed breakfast together. My chores included preparing for the next morning, as I check if we have enough water for the next day. It takes me two hours to get more water for our home, and planning for that trip with two small children is difficult. Clean water is irregular in the pipe, and water is clean about once a week.

After feeding the family, it is necessary I feed our animals right away. I provided fodder for the cows and then went to my neighbor’s house to buy crops for my business. Today James stayed home to care for Keilla and Jackson when I left the home neighbor’s house to buy crops for my business. Something he never used to do!

jeanine breastfeeding child

In the mornings, Jeanine breastfeeds her youngest child. Among her daily responsibilities is also maintaining household hygiene. 

In my community, when children are not treated well or if the home is unclean or unhygienic, the first person who gets blamed is the woman. If I don’t fulfill these responsibilities, people will see me as lazy and careless. It can become a source of misunderstanding between James and me.

Jeanine shows her commodities to a customer
9:00 AM, Selling at the Market

Today I went to sell my products at the market, which I do twice a week. Yesterday, in preparation to go to market, I prepared extra food and water for myself. Today I travelled the 5 km to market by borrowing James’ bike, but sometimes I need to hire a bike taxi if James needs to go out. James was helpful today and helped me pack up my beans, maize, sorghum, and peanuts to sell.

I have learned a lot about starting a business since I joined the Women for Women International Stronger Women, Stronger Nations program. I feel motivated by everything I learned in class, and it inspired me to start my business. My business is small, but it allows me to contribute to my family’s well-being which gives me pride and hope for the future.

James and his bike

1:00 PM, Heading to Class

James and I both have our Women for Women International classes today. It was a good day because this means we squeezed together on his bike to get there. On the days where I am by myself, I must walk the several kilometers to class, and it takes a lot more time out of my day.

When I started the Stronger Women, Stronger Nations program with Women for Women International, James was invited to join the Men’s Engagement Program and since then I’ve seen a big change in him. He used to think that the main role of a real man was just to provide food, pay for health insurance, pay the school fees, and ensure the children have clothes. He wouldn’t help with the care for our children. He wouldn’t even carry them, as he always told me it was shameful for a man to carry a child. When I had to go to market, or if I was sick, he would take the children to my mother. Often, he would come home late, after 8PM, and wouldn’t help me with household chores. I was frustrated a lot of the time and life was difficult having so many responsibilities by myself.

I am very appreciative for the program for men as I have seen a distinct change in him. He has realized that men can have a role in parenting and what it means to be an involved father. He has learned how to hold a baby, wash our little ones, and how to help me with the chores around the house. It’s been much better for our family, now with his new understanding of household chores.

jeanine in class
1:30 PM, Building Skills

Today our class was focused on health and hygiene which I have learned to be very important, especially with COVID-19 in my country. Besides understanding how to care for my and my family’s health, I learned about managing my finances. I learned how to earn and save money and also how to invest it.

My monthly stipend from the program is $10 (US) and I use it to meet my household’s needs but also use it to increase my savings in our VSLA. James and I recently bought a crossbreed cow, which has been a huge help to my business.

I really like my class because I have learned about many different subjects and skills during the program. My favorite sessions so far have been about my rights. For example, I have come to learn about my rights as a human being. I know how to claim my rights and stand up for myself if my rights are violated.

jeanine with friend and husband

6:00 PM, Visit with Friend & Evening Chores

I got to visit with my good friend Nyiramajyambere after class today! I have formed a deep friendship with her and am so happy to have met her in my class. She is older than me, so I learn a lot from her experience. She has proven to be a wonderful friend and advisor.

Since joining the program, I have made many friends and I like to visit with them after class. I am much more confident now as a woman. I used to be very shy and isolated and would often keep to myself. But now I feel free to interact with others, and I can even strike up conversations about any given subject!

Tonight, I fetched water for the morning, which I do every evening to prepare for the next day. I wish that I could have time for myself, but there is too much to do for my family.

It was a good night because James helped me harvest cassava from our property, which I cooked for dinner. After we ate together as a family, I washed the dishes and washed our children. We were ready for sleep around 9 PM, and I prepared the beds for the family.

woman with tree
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