Complete dependence on her husband strained Brigitte’s marriage and limited her freedom. Now she runs a business her whole family can be proud of.
Brigitte, a 43-year-old mother of four, grew up on a small farm much like the one she lives on now in a sleepy hillside village in Rwanda. Brigitte and her husband Epimaque have a fairly large home. In the front room, there’s space for his motorcycle. A large chicken coop sits out back near sheds with the rest of the farm’s animals. Her bountiful vegetable farm is a few walkable miles away.
When she married Epimaque, she knew she’d rely on him financially. But she didn’t anticipate how much this would strain their marriage and how it would limit her freedom. She was unable to buy her own clothes or choose what food to feed her family. Once, a friend fell ill and Brigitte couldn’t visit her at the nearby hospital because she didn’t have the money for transportation.
“Always begging for everything you need from your husband is sad. You lose the trust you had,” she says. “One day I asked my husband to give me money for clothes during the year-end parties and he refused.”
After joining a CARE Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA), Brigitte began raising chickens. She was mentored by a local man and longtime chicken farmer and soon her farm expanded from five to 1,000 chickens. And now, she mentors other women in her village, encouraging them to take risks and start businesses of their own. “Because I was given support, I need to do the same,” she says.
No longer dependent on her husband, Brigitte now makes important household decisions and takes loans from microfinance institutions to continue expanding her business. She says when women become independent, there are less conflicts in the home and more love and respect from husbands. Brigitte looks forward to growing her business so she can pay for her children’s education, build a house, and pay for healthcare.
“I am now someone who can make my own decisions, or decide on behalf of my household. I am so proud,” Brigitte says. “I am proud of being a woman entrepreneur. When a woman enters into something with passion, she can make it!”