My name is Beatrice Mukamabano, I was born in 1969 and I am a mother of two boys. I am married although my husband is in jail.
Before the embroidery project started, I was among the ladies who used to beg at the Kibeho shrine. I did not have any hope in life as my husband was in jail and I had to feed two children and my elderly father who live with me. It was an undignified life, which made us rejected by our own society as begging in Rwandan culture is something very embarrassing to do. As a woman beggar, I felt rejected by the society, no one would pay attention to me, I did not have any value. People will look at me from a distance and repulse me.
Today, thanks to the Kibeho embroidery Project, I am no longer called a Batwa as the definition of Batwa is used to refer to the least of the Rwandan society. I am able to buy new clothes and dress up my family. Today, my children are in school. I am taking care of my elderly father thanks to the income generated from the Kibeho embroidery project.
During Umuganda and other cultural gatherings such as weddings, I participate fully without being judged or discriminated. I sit with other ladies and share everything with them. One of the achievements of the Kibeho Project has been the self-confidence the project has brought to us, Batwa women. At the beginning of the project, it was difficult for us to open up to other ladies non- Batwa as we felt they would have a similar reaction as that we used to encounter. However, thanks to our trainers (Janetje Van Der Merwe and her team), we started by having meetings and sitting all together. It did not matter where I came from or what my background was. As long as I was part of the project, I was treated equally with my other colleagues.
The challenge we face in the project is the delivery of the stock we use to do the embroidery work. Martha ensures that each lady makes 3 to 4 bags per month however, we would like to increase the production from 3 bags to 7. We are able to embroider these but the material is not always available. It will be good to see how to send enough materials at the beginning of the year so we produce enough bags that can sustain our families, and on a regular basis.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Project initiator, Netty Butera for thinking about us. This project has improved our lives tremendously and has brought back our dignity lost when begging. I would like to thank Janet Van Der Merwe and the team from Pretoria for the embroidery training that has fully changed my life, Martha Mukamana, our project coordinator for her patience with us, Father Jean Hagumamahoro for his advice and support. We have been receiving payment promptly since Father Jean became the Parish priest of Kibeho and I would like to thank him for ensuring we are paid on time.