Working together to confront poverty
Rwanda: During the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, nearly one million people were killed. Many Rwandans are still deeply traumatised by these events. Widows and AIDS orphans in particular tend to live in abject poverty. Self-help groups improve their situation. Working closely together, members of the group experience the benefits of collaboration. They empower support each other and develop an unprecedented sense of self-confidence. After jointly saving money, groups pool the savings to make loans needed to establish set up a small business. Please support our project with a donation or become a project sponsor.
A grim past
The small East African country of Rwanda has a history of genocide and civil war. In 1994, nearly one million people died in widespread atrocities. Within just 100 days, members of the Tutsi ethnic group and moderate Hutu were killed by Hutu militias. This national trauma has left an indelible mark on life and people in Rwanda. It destroyed social structures and left behind many orphans and widows. Since many schools were destroyed and teachers were killed during the genocide, the literacy rate is extremely low.
To reach the poorest of the poor, our partner African Evangelistic Enterprise (AEE) has been working with the self-help group approach since 2002. Activities focus on five Rwandan regions: Kigali, Butare, Rwamagana, Byumba and Gitarama. Today, 5,011 self-help groups are in existence comprising 97,521 mothers who look after 302,042 children. The self-help groups are organised in 432 associations, called cluster level associations (CLAs). Nine federations are overseeing the associations.
The self-help groups are based on a three-pronged approach: the social, economic and political empowerment of the poorest of the poor. Target groups include children and young people, who have to fend for themselves together with their siblings, and widows who take care of many orphans. Groups of 15 to 20 participants meet on a weekly basis to talk, brainstorm ideas, encourage each other and save money. The group helps its members to emerge from their personal and social isolation. Working closely together they experience the benefits of collaboration, empower each other and develop an unprecedented sense of self-confidence. Especially in Rwanda, this can be an effective way of coming to terms with the trauma and reconciling people's differences in the wake of the genocide. If a member becomes sick, other group members pitch in to harvest crops and do necessary field work. They also grant loans to group members who are facing an emergency.
- The Self help group-approach reaches the poorest of the poor.
In addition to social development, it is important to help people build a stronger economic future. The pooled savings are granted as loans to finance income-generating initiatives that allow members to provide for their families and children. Every group has a separate bank account. The third important component is organizational capacity building. The self-help group members elect representatives who join larger committees that represent the interests of the entire community. For example, they improve the water supply and launch vaccination campaigns. Thanks to the large number of people in the committees, they are more likely to be heard by government officials.
Our partner AEE is advising the groups in the founding phase. The staff members take part in the weekly group meetings. Workshops offer a range of topics, including healthcare, HIV/AIDS, conflict resolution and organic farming. This support is reduced over time as the groups gradually become more independent. They independently organise literacy courses and child care for infants and toddlers. Nevertheless, AEE remains available as a point of contact. It is key that the groups are the ones who are developing new initiatives. This self-help group approach is crucial for sustainable development.
Project No. 67002