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Learning my rights helped me rebuild a new future, Niyonsaba narrates

Niyonsaba having a light moment with her son while sorting beans for dinner

Learning my rights helped me rebuild a new future, Niyonsaba narrates

Vestine Niyonsaba, a resident of Ruheru sector is a widow, her husband died last year. She is a mother of four children and takes care of her two nephews, who currently live with her.

Niyonsaba had no right to property and was unaware about her rights, especially land rights. All the property they had as a couple, the husband would CLAIM it was all his, and she had no share or say, regarding it. Also, her husband would force her to have sexual intercourse against her will. Much as she was unhappy with all this, she didn’t think it would ever end because of growing up in a patriarchal society where males dominated everything.

 “I got married in the 1990’s but I had no idea that I or other woman had rights. I thought it was normal that men dominate, and women are subordinates. I was not confident, and I was ignorant about women rights. I was even afraid to approach the leaders in my community,” narrated Niyonsaba.

Vestine Niyonsaba, a resident of Ruheru sector is a widow, her husband died last year. She is a mother of four children and takes care of her two nephews, who currently live with her.

Niyonsaba had no right to property and was unaware about her rights, especially land rights. All the property they had as a couple, the husband would CLAIM it was all his, and she had no share or say, regarding it. Also, her husband would force her to have sexual intercourse against her will. Much as she was unhappy with all this, she didn’t think it would ever end because of growing up in a patriarchal society where males dominated everything.

 “I got married in the 1990’s but I had no idea that I or other woman had rights. I thought it was normal that men dominate, and women are subordinates. I was not confident, and I was ignorant about women rights. I was even afraid to approach the leaders in my community,” narrated Niyonsaba.

That’s the life she saw other women living and it began to look like a normal ordeal since many were going through the same. Later, when she joined a cooperative with other women, Niyonsaba learnt about women rights that she didn’t know she was entitled to.

Though forming and working with cooperatives in rural areas, ActionAid and it’s partners offered & still offers trainings on women rights. Niyonsaba and many other women (and men) are now empowered with knowledge on women rights. ActionAid also supported illegally married couples to have their civil marriage, so now the women have rights to ownership of land-those who aren't legally married aren't lawfully guaranteed land ownership rights in marriage.

ActionAid also simplified and translated to the local language ‘Kinyarwanda’ a booklet on women rights and it was given to women to read so they can be aware of information about their rights and policies in place. That is how Niyonsaba continues to learn and be impacted with knowledge on her rights among other empowerment topics learned that rebuilt her life.

“Today I can advocate for other women. I wish more women knew their rights; and the men too, so they can stop abusing women rights. I am glad that at least my husband died after he had learnt about women rights and had stopped abusing my rights. I help other women in my community who are abused to learn about their rights through sensitising them and their spouses and ensuring that they receive further assistance if need be. Even though he’s gone, I am empowered now and will continue taking care of our children and property & help other women get empowered too,” added Niyonsaba.

 Building a 5 Bedroom House

Niyonsaba lives in a small brick house. Niyonsaba, a farmer, not only became empowered with knowledge on her rights but also economically. She has been able to save together with other members in her cooperative, Icyizere Cy’ubuzima. She is also the President of this cooperative.

Niyonsaba is currently constructing a 5-bedroomed house that is close to completion. She has also been able to construct a tap with clean running water in her home, buy livestock and pay tuition for her children, through her savings. She also usually volunteers during elections & counsels people facing life’s difficulties within her community.

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