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A liberating journey

10 January 2019

Liberate Mukanzihira (61) and her family rely on their small patch of land in southern Rwanda to sustain a living, but a lack of fertile land means it can be difficult to make ends meet.

Liberate Mukanzihira is a community leader in her village in Rwanda. Photo : Andrea Sciorato / Trócaire

She supported her husband, Dismas, in helping to farm their land but never felt confident to take a lead within the home or the community. That changed when she became involved in the Food Security and Climate Change Project carried out by Caritas Gikongoro with the support of Trócaire.

This provided Liberate and her family with a rainwater harvesting and storage tank to support farming activities all year round, good quality seeds and technical training in soil fertility improvement and more effective farming techniques. This allowed Liberate to improve the fertility of the land and boost her income thanks to increased yields.

Liberate’s participation in the project has helped not only from a practical point of view, however. Thanks to the new skills she learned, she has gained confidence in herself and her role in the family, and has started to become progressively more involved in several community activities.

Liberate is now an active and reputable community leader in her capacity as a member of the Village Water and Climate Change Committee and chairperson of a farming working group. She took part in further leadership and technical training and is helping to drive a mapping exercise of waterrelated issues in her community to hold the authorities to account. She has become more aware of her rights and has overcome her fear to take an active role in the community, and now balances the aspects of her life as a farmer, mother, wife and leader.

“Women should produce something instead of depending on someone else for everything, and they should have their own income,” she says. “This is the only way women can gain the confidence they need to speak out and advocate for their rights and roles in the household and in the community. This is my best advice for every person in my situation.” This strong belief is what has pushed her to take her action even further. “I now provide advice to other women in issues related both to farming and to their rights,” says Liberate. “And, together with my colleagues from the different committees I am part of, we share reports and facilitate conversations with the authorities when there is a problem, as we did with the water pollution issue of our river.”

Liberate now looks to the future with hope. She plans to continue to increase the income of her household by growing more vegetables to sell at the local market. Moreover, she wants to rebuild their kitchen and, perhaps, buy a small animal to help her and her husband financially when they will no longer be able to farm.

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