If you would have asked Vestine Nyirasafari 15 years ago if she might someday live in the City, she would have thought it very unlikely. At the time, she and her family were living in the Forests of former Ruhengeri district, today’s Northern Province, and were barely getting by.
Yet today, the 38-year-old, her husband Emmanuel Kanyamugabo and their eight children (five girls and three boys) are living happily in Musanze city; she has her own business, their children go to school and they all have health insurance. The turnaround came in 2003, when she met members from a women’s group in Musanze.
“Since then, my life has changed considerably,” Nyirasafari says.
The reason is that the women were doing business with VisionFund Rwanda (VFR), one of the biggest microfinance companies in Rwanda, and linked to the organization WorldVision. The institution particularly focuses on giving disadvantaged people small loans to improve their livelihoods and thus ensure a better future for their children. It also provides some basic financial management training to the beneficiaries.
“I started working with VisionFund in 2003, as member of a group of 60 women, and we used to get Rwf 60,000 each every 3 months. I immediately started making a profit,” Nyirasafari recalls. Two years later, she became eligible for personal loans and initially received Rwf 300,000.
Thanks to her habit of punctually paying back the loans, VFR granted her gradually more credit, going up to Rwf 2 million. At that point, Nyirasafari decided to switch from her small retail business to importing secondhand clothes and textile.
“When the business was making enough profit, I decided to buy a house from which I could sell my goods,” she explains. “It was going so well that I also went into the taxi-moto business and wholesale instead of retail.”
Today, she has a well-stocked shop, and in only three days sells 40 bags of rice which she brings from Kigali, alongside cooking oil and other foodstuff.
“I can afford private schools for all my kids, and our lives keep improving; we have managed to buy a plot of land where we have built our own house,” Nyirasafari says.
Based on her own experience, she calls on women in Musanze and elsewhere to have the courage to stand up and start their own business with small loans, instead of waiting for their husbands to provide for them.
“They should leave their comfort zones, staying at home isn’t helpful at all,” Nyirasafari advises. “With the help of VisionFund you can’t fail; they never delay the disbursement Vestine Nyirasafari in her shop in Musanze of the loans, so your projects can go ahead as planned.”
Read this article and more in issue n° 80 of Hope Magazine.