From rags, Mukamurigo still believes she owes President Kagame
Clad in a yellow Kitenge and a white top, sited on a well woven mat in front of her luxurious, tilled house with her eyes fixed on the handicraft in her hands, the 54 year old widow could still remember her journey from rags tags to riches.
The sun was setting in the far hills overlooking Mbyo sector in Bugesera district and the smell of well cooked rice and meat could tell the family has something to put on the table, a signal that the family is well off.
â€œAt times I sit here and wonder if am the one in such a good house and havingÂ food for my family and animals, it always takes time toÂ believe,â€ saidÂ Mukamurigo Jeann Dâ€™Arc, a mother of four, while she raised her head to see goats that were returning to roost.
TakingÂ time back in the past 19 years, Jeanne Dâ€™Arc could be sitting in her two roomed ramshackledÂ house wondering what to eat with her children yawning as they had not yet eaten anything fromÂ morning.
â€œWhen I returned back in Rwanda in 1996, Life was not easy as a widow, I didnâ€™t have basic necessities for my children, even food,â€ she narrated.
Â Mukamurigo recalls a time when she had to spend two days without a meal for her children, â€œIt is when I decided to move around the village to dig so that I can earn money for a meal.â€
She also explained that â€œI had never tilled in my lifeâ€, she narrates taking a pause to recall the sequence of events. â€œI started getting little money to buy food and clothing for my children, it was strugglingâ€
She recalls that after a year, she was called to teach at a community school, basing on her education she had acquired being a senior three dropout. â€œAs a teacher I was paid Rwf 7000 and I had to use all this money to take my children to school.
â€œI started breathing and felt relieved in lifeâ€, she explains.
â€œChildren could go to school and as well eat, because I could dig and get some harvests, but life started changing when I left the jobâ€, the sobbing mother narrates.
Money wasnâ€™t enough and was taking a lot of time there, children could put on only one cloth through months. She explains that life became more difficult as she didnâ€™t have money for school fees.
â€œTo make matters worse, hunger struck the district in 2000 and it was now hard to get food, I was worried of my children dying of hungerâ€.
But to Godâ€™s rescue, Mukamurigo says that she was introduced to a project that was supporting widows and she received a support worth Rwf 20,000. â€œI went and bought goatsâ€, she says and these goats became her lifeline, she adds.
In 2002, the government in collaboration with millennium village project extended health services to the poverty stricken Bugesera district, extended clean water and also helped people with income generating projects.
â€œAnd in 2007 we were asked to organize ourselves in cooperatives, I and other women started a handicraft cooperatives, I was then that I started earning money again.â€
Under the governmentâ€™s programme Village Umurenge Programme-VUP, Mukamurigo together with other women who were poverty stricken were then introduced to Savings and credit Cooperatives-Saccos -which is one of the strategies of the Village Umurenge programme-VUP.
Â The Program is a governmentâ€™s initiative that aims at eradicating extreme poverty by 2020 through creating off-farm employment opportunities and accelerating the process of monetization and formalization of the economy.
To address the challenge of extreme poverty, the programme under its Ubudehe (levels) identified and categorized people according to their financial status.
Accordingly, every village assesses each personâ€™s financial/asset status and places them in one of six categories; category one for the poorest individuals, and category six for the wealthiest. The poorest are them organized in cooperatives and helped by government.
â€œThey taught us how to save. I started saving money from my handicraft sales and the money I got from selling crops and goats, she said.
She adds, â€œSaccos helped us so much and this is why we are now able to get out of poverty and getÂ Â where we are now.â€
She attributes her achievements to President Paul Kagameâ€™s good leadership, Mukamurigo says she would still be hovering in poverty, a reason her and other women who were stricken in poverty are supporting the change of article 101 of the constitution.
The change of this article will allow president Kagame stand for third term when his second term ends in 2017.
â€œYou cannot forget someone who got you out of povertyâ€, she explains.
The change of the article therefore, will make Mukamurgo and other people have a chance of having him back as their president come 2017 presidential elections.
Most people believe that the president Kagame deserves another term, highlighting their success stories from poverty. It means that the people will have to call on the Parliament to change the article, moreover over 4 million people petitioned parliament to change the article.
To allow more people to echo their views on the change of the article, the Parliamentarians started a country-wide consultations which has seen several success stories such as Mukamurigoâ€™s help to inspire more people.
The citizens believe that allowing the sitting president to stand for third term will help consolidate the development he has extended to them while also help others get out of poverty hence improving livelihoods.