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Epiphany became the main caregiver for her two younger sisters at the age of 13. Photo: Trócaire

Humanitarian

Savings groups empowering young Rwandan women like Epiphany to combat poverty

When she was only 13 years old Epiphany was forced to drop out of school to become the primary carer for her two younger sisters following the sudden death of her parents.

Epiphany, who is now aged 18 and from the village of Gikungu in the Nyamagabe District of southern Rwanda, struggled to adapt to her new role providing for her sisters, one of which has physical disabilities. Finding ways to earn money proved challenging.

 

There aren’t many opportunities for girls in Rwanda. Epiphany received some financial assistance from the government, but she also farmed the small piece of land left by her parents and worked as a farmhand for other families. Unfortunately, all of this combined still didn’t cover basic living needs.

 

In Rwanda it is common for young girls like Epiphany to have to leave school early due to family responsibilities. Despite an increased focus on girls’ education in the country, blocks still remain and the cycle of poverty continues as it did for the generation before.

 

Providing for her sisters was at the forefront of Epiphany’s thoughts and actions every day. She wanted to do everything she could to build a better life for them.

 

Epiphany decided that starting her own business would be the best way to lift her family from the poverty they were living in. The 18-year-old had the ambition, but no capital or access to a loan to support her.

 

Many others in the village shared the same hopes, and through dedicated community mobilisation three Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) were formed in the area to help community members make their dreams a reality. Epiphany was lucky enough to be selected as a participant.

 

The VSLA project was supported by Jersey Overseas Aid (JOA) and implemented by Trócaire in partnership with BIOCOOR, UNICOOPAGI and ICRAF, with the aim to empower and support communities in southern Rwanda.

 

After joining the VSLA, Epiphany took out a small loan of €14 which she used to buy Irish potato seeds, a piglet to help her with manure, and avocadoes to sell for a profit. Selling the avocadoes helped her to fully pay back her loan. After the first month, she earned €15 and was able to add other varieties of fruits to her small business and increase her shares in the saving group.

 

Being part of the VSLA has transformed life for Epiphany and for marginalised communities in southern Rwanda where poverty is widespread.

 

“I have realised that there are so many opportunities through the saving group. I have learnt that even saving 9 cents can help me achieve something big over time,” said Epiphany.

 

Epiphany is now happily waiting for the harvest of her potatoes so that she can earn more money. She is excited about the new opportunities which have opened up to her since joining the VSLA. Her dream is to start a piggery project and to purchase a cow in the second cycle of her VSLA.

 

With your support, Trócaire is helping to build a brighter future for people like Epiphany in Rwanda. We help people earn better incomes and grow more food. We help women, men and young people become more resilient. We also help people overcome trauma and build a future of peace and hope.

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