Communities in Nyamasheke and Rusizi in Rwanda, where the Creating Off-farm Rwandan Enterprises (CORE) project takes place, remain predominantly agricultural. The rate of unemployment remains very high, with men significantly outnumbering the women when it comes to employment in both districts.
As such this project aims to support women and youth run cooperatives and help them build diverse off-farm entrepreneurship skills so that women and youth increase their opportunities to make a living, keep their families safe and allow for more inclusive and sustainable development within communities. The project also provides training and links these trained women and youth with long term business mentors to help support them as they grow their enterprises.
Rose participated in a three-day training about entrepreneurship, business planning and record keeping organised by the CORE project. Following the training she took her newly acquired skills, especially on customer care and marketing, and started to implement changes to her business. As a result, Rose started to see an increase in her sales and decided to secure a loan from the bank worth 1,350,000 Rwandan francs, which she has used to grow and expand her business further with her husband.
"I learned how best to take care of my customers. I now ensure they feel at home when they enter my shop, park for them, and help those who buy in bulk get their good to their transport means. This encourages many people to come to my shop – this is a result of the training," Rose tells us.
Entrepreneurship training empowers women in critical thinking, oral communication, marketing/selling, planning and research.
Rose hopes to boost her business capital so that it is worth 10,000,000 Rwandan francs.
The CORE Project also helps to strengthen local saving groups by providing them with training on saving culture, loans application, group management, how to support start-up businesses, business management etc. These savings groups are linked to financial institutions to help make it easier for communities to access financial support for their businesses and the trainings help these groups to provide the support needed to help businesses to grow and contribute back to the community.
Grace had to drop out from school because her family could not afford the university fees. Initially she worked on farms to make a living but with the help of the Tuzamurane kalambi saving group, Grace was able to borrow 20,000 Rwandan francs to start her mobile money business – a mobile payments system handled by a mobile operator and accessible from the payees mobile phones. This conversion of cash into electronic value and vice versa, can be done in stores or by agents like Grace.
Grace’s business journey has not been smooth, she has experienced challenges like having inadequate capital and working in a male dominated workplace that can be a sexist environment. However, she is determined and continues to work hard. She has managed to increase the value of her business to 220,000 Rwandan francs.
"There are a lot of challenges for women in this kind of business, however the only force needed to move ahead is determination, courage and passion," Grace said.
Through the trainings and dialogue sessions, business is being leveraged to adopt conflict and gender sensitive practices. It is also being used to collectively influence post conflict development policies and practices for more inclusive and sustainable development within communities and end all kinds of violence and gender issues women and youth cross-border traders face in their daily work. Conflict hampers trade and socio-economic development and peace does the opposite.