Brigitte Uwababyeyi, a 43-year-old mother of four, grew up on a small farm much like the one she lives on now in the sleepy hillside village of Kamonyi in Rwanda. Brigitte and her husband Epimaque have a fairly large home. In the front room, there’s space for his motorcycle. A large chicken coop sits out back near sheds with the rest of the farm’s animals. Her bountiful vegetable farm is a few walkable miles away.
When she married Epimaque, she knew she’d rely on him financially. But she didn’t anticipate how much this would strain their marriage and how it would limit her freedom. She was unable to buy her own clothes or choose what food to feed her family. Once, a friend fell ill and Brigitte couldn’t visit her at the nearby hospital because she didn’t have the money for transportation.
When a woman enters into something with passion, she can make it!
“Always begging for everything you need from your husband is sad. You lose the trust you had,” she says. “One day I asked my husband to give me money for clothes during the year-end parties and he refused. I stayed at home that day and he went out and [bought beer] for himself.”
After joining a CARE Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA), she dabbled in selling sorghum, but the travel involved was not conducive to a working mom’s hectic schedule.
“It was more challenging when I was pregnant or breastfeeding and I had to travel to further places,” she says.
Brigitte began raising chickens instead. She was mentored by a local man and longtime chicken farmer and soon her farm expanded from 5 to 1,000 chickens. She now mentors fellow women in her village, encouraging them to take risks and start businesses of their own.
“Because I was given support, I need to do the same,” she says.
No longer dependent on her husband, Brigitte now makes important household decisions and takes loans from microfinance institutions to continue expanding her business. She says when women become independent, there are less conflicts in the home and more love and respect from husbands. Brigitte looks forward to growing her business so she can pay for her children’s educations, build a house, and pay for healthcare.
“Because I am now someone who can make my own decisions, or decide on behalf of my household, I am so proud,” Brigitte says. “I am proud of being a woman entrepreneur. When a woman enters into something with passion, she can make it!”