Single mothers find hope in basket weaving
HUYE–Listening to the account of Louise Twagiramariya, 25, a mother to three young children aged seven, three and five months, one is taken aback by the tribulations she has undergone after giving birth at a tender age.
The young unmarried mother currently still lives with her parents in Simbi Sector, one of the remotest areas of Huye District.
“When I was a young girl, I went to Kigali in search for a job. But unfortunately in that process, I got impregnated,” she narrates.
“I immediately came back home, but my family rejected me. I was obliged to leave. I was moving from one house to another, passing nights with friends. It was very difficult for me”, she recalls.
Twagiramariya says that after giving birth, she went back to Kigali in search of a job once more.
“I got impregnated for the second and third time,” she says.
“I was really ashamed. The whole society had rejected me. I felt isolated”.
Soon after, she decided to concentrate on raising her children. A few months ago, Twagiramariya joined other unmarried women in her area and, together, they started to learn how to weave baskets. They called their group ‘Terimbere Nyampinga”. But the core idea behind the co-op goes just beyond weaving: the women also seek consolation from each other as they share similar stories.
Philomene Mukanyandwi, the co-op representative, says that as a group, they try to understand each other’s difficulties.
“Due to the hardships and rejection we went through, we have been emotionally and psychically wounded, and everyone has been affected in her own way”, Mukanyandwi says.
“Together, we try to heal our wounds. We also share advice to strengthen our resolve to never fall back into the same mistakes again.”.
Mukanyandwi herself is a mother to two kids aged 9 and 3 years and her story, like that of many of these women, depicts the distress girls went through in the Rwandan society when they give birth out of wedlock.
Giving birth to a child out of wedlock is, somehow, still considered a taboo in the Rwandan culture.
“When I got pregnant, I was subjected to physical violence,” narrates Mukanyandwi, who says she was at the time pursuing her secondary school education.
“My siblings frequently beat me until I decided to run away. I only returned after giving birth”, she says.
“Giving birth at a tender age and out of wedlock caused me difficulties I will never forget. It affected my life”.
Mukanyandwi says joining other unmarried women has given her the courage to move forward.
“Together, we have found hope in life. In addition, we are now learning how to weave baskets and we believe this job will help us improve our living conditions,” the 27-years-old woman says.
For Twagiramariya, being part of a group of unmarried women has helped her to share her story with those who understand her difficulties “because they underwent similar hardships.”
“Since I joined this group, I learnt to accept myself and to champion for a better life. Together, we share the same story and we are making sure we move forward together,” she says.
“I have also learnt to behave well”.
Uyisabye, 26, another member of the cooperative and mother of two, says getting pregnant out of marriage does not mean life has to end. She says she has found courage in other members of the group.
“Even some young ladies have asked me if they can join us because they have realised our group is growing”, she proudly says.
But to remain in this group, one has to follow and respect some conditions, but the main one is never to get pregnant again.
“We made it clear to everyone of us that there is no room for giving birth to another child out of wedlock. Anyone who fails to abide is consequently expelled”, Mukanyandwi, who leads the group, says of the regulations.