Hands of Mothers (Manos de Madres) is committed to developing the capacity of women to build resilient livelihoods and financial independence. In Rwanda, we work in partnership with the AIDS organization WE-ACTx. All of our program beneficiaries are living with HIV and are receiving medical treatment and psychosocial support from WE-ACTx. However, without a source of regular income, they are not able to purchase food for themselves and their children. The vast majority of WE-ACTx patients eat, on average, less than one meal per day.
Entrepreneurship and Micro-Lending
Our newest and most ambitious program to date was developed to meet the needs and actualize the dreams of the women in the WE-ACTx Young Mothers Group. Participants complete basic literacy and numeracy education, establish savings and lending groups and receive training in entrepreneurship skills. Working individually or in pairs, viable participants develop business plans and are vetted for the competitive microloan and mentoring program. To date, 6 loans have been extended, ranging from $200 - $350; we are currently at a 70% repayment rate on our 4 original loans. We invite you to meet Clementine, one of our loan recipients.
Vocational Training and Internships
Vocational training has proven to be an effective strategy for poverty reduction in Rwanda. Hands of Mothers has funded vocational training and internships in tailoring, which is one of the most versatile and desirable trades for WE-ACTx beneficiaries with little formal education. Post-graduation, the tailors are given the prized “tools of their trade” - a manual sewing machine, worktable and chair, iron, and tailor shears. This education and equipment empowers and enables them to join a sewing cooperative or to start their own tailoring business. The profile of Francine, one of the program graduates, provides some insight into the transformative power of this program. Hands of Mothers has also begun funding training programs in cosmetology as this vocation is experiencing a surge in demand in Rwanda.
Hands of Mothers has co-created, capacitated and mentored 6 cooperatives in Rwanda with over 140 members. The cooperatives are listed below, from oldest to newest:
Ineza Sewing Cooperative
Solidarite’ Weaving Cooperative
Ejo Hazaza Jewelry Cooperative
Dutete Screen Printing and Promotional Products Cooperative
Baho Organic Market Garden Cooperative
Twiyubake Leather Sandal Cooperative
These groups now produce diverse lines of products, including fashion-forward personal and home accessories, woven traditional and contemporary baskets, beaded jewelry, screen-printed labels and t-shirts, and organic vegetables from the thriving BAHO Market Garden.
Education is a major component of our development efforts. Most of the women and young adults with whom we work have had little or no education – a legacy of the genocide, poverty and poor health. Contrary to large development organizations, our education initiatives focus on results rather than statistics. Working one-on-one or in small groups, participants learn to read, write and do basic math - the fundamental tools necessary to manage money. Hands of Mothers also funds training in computer literacy and English language classes.
Educate and Empower 100 Program
Our goal is to enable 100 girls to attend school – many of whom have either never been enrolled or have had interrupted school attendance due to lack of money for school fees. Educate and Empower 100 was launched in September with 52 girls and hopes to expand to 100 in January! In addition to paying school fees, Hands of Mothers provides uniforms, shoes, books and supplies as well as sanitary pads – all of which are necessary to insure that girls are able to attend school regularly.
Meet 2 of our first 52
Belicia Igihozo is 12 years old and has not been attending school regularly due to lack of school fees. Although she walks 1½ hours each way to attend the nearest school, she is excited and grateful for the opportunity. She likes studying and hopes to catch up to her age/grade appropriate level now that Hands of Mothers is paying her school fees and purchasing books and supplies. She hopes to attend university one day so that she can help “develop her country and fight for justice.”
Arianne Mwamikazi is 12 years old and in 3 rd grade. Her mother, Grace, has not been able to pay her school fees so she sent Arianne to live with a relative far from home. As a result of the Hands of Mothers Education and Empower Initiative, Arianne is back with her mother and attending a good, local school that can address her special needs. Grace hopes that Arianne can complete her education so that she will be able to get a “proper job and have a good life” rather than being forced into sex worker (like she is) for lack of other options. Arianne hopes to become a doctor so that she can cure people with HIV/AIDS.