Ancille of Kasebuturanyi
Outside her house.
One of the prettiest latrines in the village with a passionfruit vine growing over it.
Ancille with her grandchildren (L-R) Valence, 7, Denise, 12, Maria, 8, and Rachel, 1 (Rachel is on Maria's back).
In her house
A future without worry...
Ancille is 71 and became a widow over 20 years ago.
When I first met her in 2016 she was worried about her poor health and was hoping that joining a self-help group would provide her with money and food. Ancille is old for a woman in Rwanda, and with the health problems she was carrying in 2016 I wasn’t certain she could contribute to a self-help group, or even if I would still find her 12 months later when I planned a follow up visit.
When I did return a year later, I found Ancille much happier and active with her group. She didn’t speak about lack of food or her poor health. She said instead, “today I feel joy, I don’t have so many problems to worry about. I don’t worry much about the future.
Ancille is now earning a small income making and selling grass mats and had just sold one to a woman about to be married. She borrows money from her group to buy grass and cord and takes ten days to make a mat, but the small income pays back the loan, gives her money for savings, and she can buy food. Similarly, she borrows money from her group to pay a labourer to work her field, and she uses the beans and sorghum to feed herself.
This is a big change over a year, from being uncertainly dependent on her grown children for her food – they are also struggling – to being close to self-sufficient. She still needs her grandchildren to fetch water for her and almost certainly is still carrying health problems, but she is happy.
Ancille’s self-help group has given her a community. She already knew the women in her group, they were not close. Now she says that when they meet in the group, “we become one person.” She tells the other women her problems and listens to theirs. They offer each other comfort and advice, and together work out ways to solve their problems. Ancille’s older perspective would be appreciated by the younger women, and they in turn can suggest new ways of making a living. Her group would have discussed her making mats and hiring a labourer, and then supported her with the necessary loans.
Ancille’s life will never be easy, and she is still a long way from her comfortable younger days when her family owned cattle and lands for farming, but one year after joining her self-help group Ancille feels that her burden is lighter and her old-age less frightening.