When I was young, I did not have a chance to get formal education, but now I know the value of education and believe it is the only way to a better life. I envision a brighter future for my children, where they will not struggle daily to survive.
My name is Gorette, I am 52 years old and a mother of 14, eight girls and six boys. I live with my family in Nyangezi, a small town situated in Walungu territory about 22 kilometers (about 13.67 mi) from Bukavu, in South Kivu province in Eastern DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo). I was a farmer for many years, but it brought in little income that could hardly support my family's needs. Although I longed to take my children to school, it seemed like a far-fetched dream considering the meager income from agriculture.
I wanted to get my children through school; to fulfill it, I had to find ways to improve my income. I joined the Stronger Women, Stronger Nations program, a 12-month program tailored toward the needs of vulnerable women. Women learn the skills they need to rebuild their families and communities together. The skills to start and manage businesses, are informed about their rights, and taught the importance of education, maintaining good health, and how to save money in a savings group.
A few months into the program, I gained confidence and could see a bright future for my children. I chose brickmaking as a vocational skill. Through the guidance of local trainers from my community, I joined hands with 24 women to form a group. We work together, develop a supporting system, and learn the skill of brickmaking. The trainers have taught us the ropes of running the business and our rights to vote and inherit property such as land.
We named the group Umoja ni nguvu, which means "Together we are strong." I am the group's president. Equipped with entrepreneurial skills from the business class, I made informed decisions as the group leader. For instance, while other groups sell 1000 bricks for $40 or even $42 in Nyangezi, I price the brinks at $38. A strategy that enabled me to sell 4000 to 5000 bricks daily. Thus, attracting more customers and getting more money. I am also responsible for the Umoja ni nguvu network of five village savings and loan associations (VSLA). I save money in all five VSLAs to ensure my daughters get a good education. I am amazed at how much of a difference it makes having money saved in five VSLA. This allows me to save more money and cater for my children's education.
I am using my skills and power to transform my family and community. Due to my tenacity and excellent rapport with the community, I have expanded my business. I have hired nine women and ten men, who call me "Boss Lady." A few of them being participants of the Stronger Women, Stronger Nations program. By doing this, I am strengthening our relationship and giving other women in the community a chance to learn from me.
Brickmaking has allowed me to take my four daughters to school. Currently, one is in the sixth year of secondary school studying pedagogy, another one is in the fifth year, the other is in fourth year, and the last is in the second orientation cycle.
Looking back, I do not wish my daughters would go through the life I went through. Through the skills gained from the Stronger Women, Stronger Nations program, I am doing everything possible to ensure my children get the best education and better life. I am determined and I will struggle to cater to my daughters' studies so that in the future, they can provide for their families and support their husbands without difficulty. To achieve this, my husband and I save money for those willing to continue their university studies after their high school education.
The teachers at the school have never expelled my daughters for not paying the fees. And this is my pride as a mother and support of WfWI for making us strong women.
Apart from brick making, I have invested in a second Income Generating Activity (IGA), a shop near my house. I sell essential commodities such as maize flour, oil, rice, sugar, etc. Having the shop near my home has boosted sales since almost all neighbors stock up from the shop. I oversee the brick-making venture, while my husband runs the shop.
The Stronger Women, Stronger Nations program has helped me balance being a mother and an entrepreneur. Despite the numerous business responsibilities, motherhood comes first, and my family must feel maternal warmth. The training has made me time conscious. I have learned planning through the SMART approach, which consists of defining Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic, and Time-bound objectives and indicators.
My golden rule remains "Time is money." I also involve my husband in weekly planning, which allows me to accomplish one task without getting in the way of another. My family, especially my daughters, support and are happy with my work.
My husband's involvement and support strengthen me in everything I do.
I could not imagine that at the age of 52, I would manage to achieve such accomplishments. I realized that it was just a lack of skills and means that set me back, but thanks to the Stronger Women, Stronger Nations program, which has enabled me to educate my daughters.
Many women from Nyangezi have benefitted from the program, but there is still a need to help and encourage more women. My wish is to see more women following in my footsteps. They have the will for entrepreneurship but need to gain the necessary skills.
I hope that Women for Women International will return to Nyangezi to train them so they may reach their full potential.