Faith Victory Association : Restoring hope for vulnerable women
By Donah Mbabazi, The New Times
Published : August 08, 2019 | Updated : August 08, 2019
Numukobwa can now feed her family. Her children are guaranteed to have a meal and a place to call home. Unfortunately this was not always the case because she and the husband were jobless and entirely depended on farming, something that did not ease survival for their family.
“We led a poor life, at times I had to beg for money to see that my family survives. People used to disrespect us and it was hard especially because we saw no way out of our misery,” she recounts.
Her life however changed three years ago when she became part of the Faith Victory Association (FVA), a Christian faith based non-governmental organisation dedicated to providing children and women among other beneficiaries a safe haven, trainings, and access to numerous opportunities.
Beneficiaries are equipped to be champions of human rights. Courtesy photos
Numukobwa says the trainings and resources she has been able to access from the organisation have completely transformed her life and that of her entire family.
“We were taught on how to operate small businesses. Through our cooperatives we have access to small loans that I used to start a small business where I sell cassava,” she says.
She started off by saving 200 rwf a week but now Numukobwa says is able to save 8000 rwf.
Men are encouraged to be part of the empowerment movement.
“I increased my shares in the saving scheme and expanded my business as well. The trainings I got have enlightened me, I help with organising meetings amongst members of our group, I help with book keeping, indeed I serve as a good example especially if one compares me to who I was a few years back. I am proud of the woman I have become,” the 36-year-old narrates.
30-year-old Christine Vuguziga shares a similar story. Her now 3-year-old son was malnourished, he was underweight and weak.
She says she had no idea what a balanced diet was and this is what was affecting her son. Vuguziga had to get nutrition lessons from the organisation and this is what saved her son’s life.
“I didn’t know that what my son needed was a balanced diet ; in fact I didn’t know what the meant at all. Back at home we always tend to think that eating things such as carrots and other vegetables is for the rich. But thank God I am now well-informed,” she says.
Vuguziga also points out that she always isolated herself from others thinking she wasn’t worth anything, and that this was caused by the state of poverty she was living in.
Women are trained to be influential figures in their respective communities.
“I could see other women in saving groups and I always told myself I couldn’t be a part of that thinking it was for the rich,” she says.
For her case, it was the issue of the mind-set and low self-esteem that was holding her back. This has since changed however and Vuguziga is now a transformed woman who has skills to operate a business and plan for the future.
“I now have a savings account with SACCO, I invest, save and at the end of the year I buy livestock to create more investments. I also rear goats and pigs,” she says.
From victims to warriors
Women who were once frail and desperate have turned into confident and influential figures in their respective communities.
Because they have been equipped with the capacity building, they serve as effective advocates of human rights. They fight against poverty and against vices such as gender based violence.
Diane Umutoni, the director of operations at FVA says training women in these aspects really empowers them in all spheres of life.
“I feel good and happy to see some women moving from one stage to the other. It also marks a significant contribution of what FVA is doing in the communities,” she says.
She is also proud of the transformation that these women are experiencing in their lives.
“They have really improved, those who were not able to pay the medical insurance are able to do it now and others are also able to pay for their children’s school fees. We cannot say the improvement is very huge but we trust that this is progress. Some have graduated from one category to another hopefully they will graduate to category three of ubudehe,” Umutoni says.
FVA operates in over thirteen Districts ; most of their beneficiaries are in rural areas such as Karongi, Nyamasheke, Rusizi in the western province and Kayonza in the Eastern province among other areas.
With FVA, the focus is mainly on supporting women in the first and second category of ubudehe, for them to be financially stable by engaging more with off-farm activities hence embracing income generating undertakings.
The organisation has a unit that aims at reducing the burden of unpaid care work for its beneficiaries.
Umutoni explains that home chores are mainly regarded as women’s work in the African context so this project is in place to help women reduce the time spent on those home chores.
How they deal with this for instance, if a woman has been walking miles to fetch water, the organisation provides water tanks to store water or better yet avail water pipes that can help them access water.
Others too receive stoves for cooking which saves them time for collecting firewood.
Umutoni says that their aim is to ensure that women are not being consumed by unpaid care work that doesn’t even generate income.
For this objective to be attainable, Umutoni says men need to be on board to see that women’s burden with this kind of work is lessened.
“We also want men to be on board, they should take part in what is happening at home however this is not fully working but at least they are now starting to embrace the concept. We still have a long way to go,” she says.
Beneficiaries are also encouraged to embrace family planning services.
“Some men still have the mentality of wanting to have more children that’s how they feel like they are real men but we are sensitising them on the effects of this. We also teach women to love themselves more so that they don’t just comply with everything they are told, they need to understand that they bear most of the consequences of this,” Umutoni adds.
In addition to that, beneficiaries are also equipped with knowledge on their rights, matrimony laws, land rights and are taught modern techniques of agriculture and most importantly- entrepreneurship skills.
FVA started in 2003 and it has impacted the lives of over 7350 beneficiaries.