Joining an association of Genocide widows could have been a breakthrough for Grace Mukanteko, 62, and Therese Gahindikiri, 70.
Their dreams got the much needed impetus when Abahuje, their association of 108 widows, received Rwf17 million support from the Fund for Support of Genocide Survivors (FARG).
With the Rwf17 million boost in 2008, for the families from the same neighborhoods, all seemed like roses, but that is as far as the face value goes.
While many associations struggle to get working capital to offset their projects and improve their living conditions, the Abahuje was not in the same boat.
Before FARG released the funding, Ibuka, the umbrella of Genocide survivors associations, submitted a project of hardware shop to improve the living conditions of Avega village, made up largely of widows.
The Abahuje association subsequently ventured into a hardware business, but the tide was never going to be smooth.
Challenges arising from lack of planning and management skills, among others, have seen Mukanteko and Gahindikiri, like several other members, struggling to make ends meet in Avega neighbourhood, Kimironko Sector, Gasabo District.
Despite government financial support to needy Genocide survivors, separate interviews conducted by this paper revealed that some Fund beneficiaries are sinking in poverty due to planning difficulties.
The Abahuje association that was headed by the two elderly women, for instance, folded back in 2010. Mukanteko and Gahindikiri acted as president and treasurer, respectively, for this association.
Mukanteko admitted they lacked the skills to manage the day-to-day activities of the business and yet relevant institutions did not offer any monitoring.
Mukanteko said her grandson has failed to get an identity card because his family of four has not paid for health insurance, a requirement from area leaders
The family does not have money to get health insurance, with their most pressing need at the moment being feeding.
Gahindikiri also has similar challenges, to get food for her family of four. She said they are struggling with challenges due to lip service from relevant organs.
Planning difficulties saw the money misused in bad transactions. Three years after receiving the financial support, the group is left with Rwf600,000 on their account. They have been in a limbo since 2010.
Many projects designated to help Genocide survivors a rise from the searing aftermath of the tragic event have failed.
Theophile Ruberangeyo, the executive secretary of FARG, acknowledged that the Fund beneficiaries did not get enough management support to turn their ideas into successful enterprises.
"Some beneficiaries get money but their leaders steal it, while others share it among themselves, thinking it is money for subsistence allowance," Ruberangeyo said. "The associations of Genocide survivors we used to entrust these funds with upon presentation of viable projects have always failed to monitor the use of the money."
A report of the Ombudsman's office, presented to Parliament on November 13, indicates that between 1998 and 2012, FARG spent over Rwf9 billion in support of Genocide survivors' projects.
They range from farming and animal husbandry to handcrafts and shop keeping. The money was given to 137 projects, but 115 died a natural death and only 22 projects are still operational.
This resulted into a loss of around Rwf300 million.
"I was the president but could not know whether we were making a profit or not. My colleagues in the committee would only tell me to authorise money withdrawal from the bank for purchase of the merchandise but they could use it for their own business," said Mukanteko.
"It's unfortunate that some beneficiaries bring us projects to forward to FARG when they only want to con unsuscpecting members," Naftali Ahishakiye, Ibuka's executive secretary, said.
But he believes there are not many of such beneficiaries.
Gaetan Niyonzima, who acted as the FARG Project Manager until 2008, said the institution used to approve projects from seven associations of Genocide survivors, including Ibuka, Avega, which is an association of Genocide widows and AERG for student survivors of the Genocide.
The projects come from different groups within the members of these associations.
Upon getting the project, FARG, Police, the concerned association and a delegate from local leaders had to verify the viability of the project.
"We have been doing this exercise; when we validate a project, we give the value of 5 per cent to the association which has to follow it up for one year. The fact is, associations of survivors monitor the projects for one year and leave it claiming lack of funds. Then the project owners mess it up," said Niyonzima.
"Our associations need to be empowered in financial management. In Ibuka, we have dozens of projects and truly speaking, we cannot monitor them all because we have a few staff," Naftali said.
Acting on the Auditor-General's recommendation, FARG has since opted to send the money through districts budget.
This, said Niyonzima, is already bearing fruits in some districts, like Karongi in Western Province and Rulindo in Northern Province. Local leaders get involved in project monitoring; after all they will be held accountable.
"We have integrated them among priority projects so we monitor them like we do for other projects. It encourages the beneficiaries to share with us their challenges so we can provide maximum support," said Rulindo mayor Justus Kangwagye,
For capacity building purposes, FARG staff are reaching out to the beneficiaries across the country to give them basic skills on project management.
This year, FARG released more than Rwf1 billion in financial support. It went to 18,000 beneficiaries in 750 groups.