Living in impoverished rural communities, many young girls and women find themselves on Bujumbura’s city streets looking for work. They come to work as babysitters and housekeepers, but many find themselves destitute and often with unwanted pregnancies. Some girls enter into relationships with the fathers of their children but can then find themselves abandoned after a few months.
Their children are often unregistered, meaning they cannot benefit from the government’s free care for babies under five years of age. These young single mothers are left trying to eke out an existence at subsistence level. They find work selling avocados, nuts and vegetables on the streets, or cultivating land for other people. Their work can yield them as little as the equivalent of 30p a day.
This tiny sum of money means that they can barely afford to eat. There is nothing left for rent, medical care or clothing. Sadly, many girls cannot secure any legitimate work and resort to prostitution and begging.
Our partner, Greenland Alliance, felt they should reach into this community and make a difference – to break these women out of what seems like an unending cycle of poverty. Initially, they identified two groups of seventeen in the rundown suburbs of Buterere and Mugoboka. There were many more in need of help, but resources meant that the women identified those most vulnerable in the community to receive support, to begin with. How heartbreaking it must have been to have to choose who to help and who to turn away, but funds are limited.
Greenland Alliance’s Dismas shares that the aim was to “open their (the women’s) eyes and enable them to believe that their living conditions can change for the better”. A savings club was established, with each of the girls committing the equivalent of £0.89. Going forward, the young women are able to arrange loans using funds outside the group and be given support for their small businesses and other income-generating activities. Dismas writes of “bringing hope to broken lives”.
Claudine, a member of one of the clubs was recently forced took to take her baby to the hospital due to severe sickness. The bills used all her money including the capital for her business (she itinerantly sells avocados). She is happy that she was able to resume her business by borrowing money from the solidarity group. Without the support of this loan, she would have lost all progress made and become destitute again. Instead, the setback was only temporary.
If you would like to give to Greenland Alliance, they will be able to say ‘yes’ to more women trapped in this desperate situation.