Pacifique Mukandayisenga is one of the many women in Rwanda who have joined the Coprozov Cooperative in Burera District, Northern Province in 2008. She has witnessed all the changes in the system and has faced challenges, so tough at times, that made it impossible to withstand. But she kept at it, hoping for a positive change, a rescue, and knowing that it will happen soon.
The Rwandan cooperatives lacked systems of regular planning, monitoring and evaluation. In fact the lack of cooperative management and financial literacy restricted their access to markets, entrepreneurship and finance. This resulted in many challenges both for the directors and the members of the cooperatives.
The positive systematic changes started to happen in 2013, when 100 cooperatives in Rwanda joined SPARK’s Cooperatives Support Programme (CSP) to build up their capacity. In other words, it was through training and coaching that CSP could enhance the farming revenue of these cooperatives.
With the youth bulge in Rwanda constituting 40% of the population in 2012, the job market was challenging. All a young single mom like Pacifique could hope for was a promising job opportunity that would guarantee to cover the basic needs of her small child.
“I received support from fellow members”
A wave of positive change was approaching fast, bringing along revolutionary ideas and swiping away old methods of business. Pacifique, like many other Rwandans, stood strong and hoped that her resistance will finally pay off. When the winds of change settled and the rays of hope made it through, she, along with many others, finally could feel the support. Being a member of the cooperative turned into a pleasant experience: “Being a member of the cooperative helped me very much. I received support from my fellow members. I could also receive small loans when I needed them.” Pacifique explains.
The cooperatives not only give women like Pacifique the support system they need to feel confident and grow, but also present them with valuable life skills such as the entrepreneurial spirit. This enables them to establish an own business and eventually make a living. Pacifique is now an independent dressmaker in addition to staying a member of the Coprozov Cooperative.
The cooperatives also act as platforms to share knowledge and experience among the members, something Pacifique found very useful: an opportunity for her to discuss with other young people on how to join efforts for the Cooperative and at the same time start a small businesses of her own so that she can become financially independent.
Pacifique Mukandayisenga is only one of the many examples of the young members of Rwandan Cooperatives who now have gained the confidence and the knowledge to stand on their own feet and integrated into the future of Rwanda.