15 October 2012

Rwanda: Turning Despair to Hope

MUHANGA-When she was just seven, Beata Mpinganzima lost both parents. It was the beginning of her tribulations.

But the situation got worse later on when Mpinganzima's elder sister got married, leaving her as the head of family at the tender age of 11.

She had the almost impossible responsibility of catering for the basic needs of her two younger sisters, without means.

"When our elder sister got married, I felt betrayed," she recalls.

"We were living in poverty and it became so hard for us to survive."

At the age of 17, Mpinganzima was introduced to an international charity organisation, the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA), where she undertook a tailoring course through the 'Giving Hope' Programme. Together with other orphans and vulnerable children, they were also taught how to create small income generating projects.

After completing the course, YWCA supported the young lady to start a tailoring business.

"I received six tailoring machines and an additional Rwf 300,000 to support my project," she reminisces.

After a few years in the tailoring business, Mpinganzima saved money and decided to venture into other enterprises. She initially traded in second hand clothes before starting a bar and restaurant business in her home town of Muhanga.

"My business is now valued at above Rwf 6 million", she proudly says.

She says she want to continue working hard and is looking forward to make it big in the future.

Today, Mpinganzima is married and blessed with one child.

The tale of Mpinganzima is just one out of the many success stories where deprived teenagers have sacrificed their lives for their younger siblings.

Many of such life stories go unobserved to the general public but Mpinganzima's story has almost taken mythical proportions especially in her area.

As the world celebrated the International Day of the Girl Child last Thursday, the young mother had an opportunity to share her account with the public.

And, at the occasion, together with two other ladies, they received each Rwf40,000 cash prizes, certificates and other gifts courtesy of YWCA in recognition of their efforts.

"Through their support, YWCA helped me to realise my dreams despite going through many problems," she narrated, adding that the recognition encourages her to work harder.

Speaking at the ceremony, the General Secretary of YWCA Rwanda, Prudentienne Uzamukunda, paid tribute to the three girls for dedicating their lives to cater for their siblings, whose lives would have otherwise been tumultuous.

"We congratulate them because they accomplished a hard task of raising their siblings," she noted.

She revealed that about 16,000 orphans and other vulnerable children have benefited from the charity's 'Giving Hope' Programme.

The Executive Secretary of the Southern Province, Jeanne Izabiliza, commended YWCA for its role in supporting orphans and other vulnerable children.

She urged parents, educators and other members of the society to remain committed to improving the living conditions of girls.

She also vouched for girls to be educated on reproductive health so as to avoid unwanted pregnancies, which, she said, prevent them from completing their education and put their lives in danger.

The United Nations has declared October 11 as the 'International Day of the Girl'.

According to the organisation, girls worldwide face double discrimination due to their gender and age, and are the most marginalised and discriminated group across the globe. According to the UN, the World Day of Girls, which was celebrated for the first time in the history last Thursday, will help to prioritise girls' rights in the upcoming decades.

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