My name is Dushime Espérance, I came to Aspire in 2009 and I graduated in 2011.
I started from level 0 because I had no career and no expectations to ever gain skills. Today I have gained the skills that I never expected to obtain.
Before coming to Aspire I was living a miserable life; I could stay home from January to December. During the war I got lost and I couldn’t find my parents. Two days later a strange man found me in the forest of Congo and took me to his home. He had children and two wives. I stayed with them for a few months, until the man got into an argument with his family. He decided to take me back to a Rwandese refugee camp, but on the way there, he instead chose to rape me then throw me in the forest. I was 15. I fell sick immediately because he had injured me, and I stayed where he had thrown me for three weeks. Some Congolese hunters found me and took me to a group of Congolese people who spoke a language similar to Kinyarwanda. I knew that going into a refugee camp would mean my death because the Hutu tribe would have killed me immediately or made me somebody’s wife. Fortunately the hunters took me to a good family, people who also spoke the language similar to Kinyarwanda (Abanyamurenge in Congo) and they helped me get back to Rwanda.
After coming back, I lived more than 10 years with the wounds of my past experience. I later got married to a man who was very poor and who wouldn’t allow me to visit any of my friends. Now, in addition to my past miserable experiences, I was married and still suffering from gender based violence. I felt inferior and I wasn’t even allowed to speak to anyone in public. My relationship was very miserable and I suffered in silence. Some days, I wondered how I would even find the energy to do my daily work.
Despite everything, I considered my husband to be the best husband and I thought the way he treated me was how other women should also be treated, because that’s how it was in my culture. I have always been living under a patriarchal mentality where the man of the family has the right to judge and decide everything for everybody at home.
I have been married for the last 7 years, but it was rough for me before coming to Aspire Rwanda. My husband could easily spend his days in a bar and when he would come home he would insult me and sell our possessions without my consent. He would tell me that I was outdated and not interesting and we spent many nights yelling and fighting.
After coming to Aspire Rwanda, it was like experiencing light after living in darkness. I was selected among the first participants of Aspire and I graduated in 2012. During my year of training, I gained vocational skills and had many different types of training.
Before, raising my children was very difficult because I was not able to work out my personal problems. Today, I have a positive mindset and I have gained the ability to handle things in a perfect and a powerful way. I am now also able to manage my marriage. My husband has completely changed; he has confidence in me and he supports me emotionally, mentally and in all my home activities. Now I make the decisions that control my future. I bought a plot of land and built a house. I have gained the respect of my husband and the whole community. I have become a self-motivated, respectful woman with a smile and a happy life. Being in Aspire’s programs, has given me the skills to become a respectful and confident woman, which touched my husband and he decided to civilly legalize our marriage, meaning more security for me.
My children have received education at the primary level and they learned a lot at the Aspire childcare center.
I now work as a volunteer at Aspire Rwanda. I am the president of the Tujyembere co-operative and I have played a large role in its success. I use the money I get for needs at home, as my husband and I share the expenses. We get an income of 180000 (approximately $250.00) per month and this is big amount of money.
I have a hope to keep on breaking the trends that have been creating poverty for so long. I have changed my way of thinking and I am proud that I have the opportunity to pass along what I have learned to women that are currently in literacy training. I have personally managed to train 12 women to make bags and I taught vocational skills to two others. I am very creative in designing new fashions of earrings and necklaces. I value every skill I acquire.
Edited for translation purposes by Paige Patterson
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