My name is Anatalie Nyampinga. I was born on 1 January 1988. I am married and a mother of two. Before the start of the Kibeho Embroidery Project, Batwa women lived on begging and on making pots.
In begging, we sometimes would be able to get some donations, other times, we would go home empty handed but the real struggle we had was with the people in charge of the security of pilgrims during mass in Kibeho. They would not let us approach pilgrims as we were disturbing their prayers and in Rwandan culture, begging is an embarrassing thing to do. You only do it when there is no other option. We used to beg but minding the security guards. We were thus considered the last in our society.
In 2014, Martha Mukamana together with Father Severin, of the Kibeho Parish came looking for us. They informed us that Netty Butera, the project initiator had contacted them and asked if they could select 12 women beggars to start the initial training on embroidery.
This is how we started the project. Janet Van Der Merwe, Rossinah and Dorah came to Kibeho in July 2014 and spent 10 days with us, teaching us how to embroider. This was indeed a new thing for all of us. We never had an opportunity to seat in a class or work in a group but the training gave us this possibility of thinking about our issues together as a group, moreover we were learning a new skill and using new tools we never accessed before.
At the beginning of the project, most of the women asked for a credit from the project because we were having issues in our homes. We could not afford to have a meal a day and all our families were malnourished. I asked for a loan of 66,000 Rwandan Francs which was equivalent to 80 USD. I then continued to work and produce more bags until I paid off my loan and started getting paid on the number of bags made. I was able to buy food, clothes for my children and myself. Today, the project means a lot to me. I never used to be presentable because I did not have an incentive for that and could not afford to buy even a soap. Today, I own a mobile phone and I am proud of my achievements.
When the Project started, my husband could not understand what the value would be in learning how to embroider. He would always challenge me to go and look for daily work opportunity rather than waste my time in embroidering. Today, my husband is very supportive of the project. He has now seen the impact of the project in our home when I am also contributing to the welfare of the family. Regarding our children, we teach them how to embroider. Most of our children know how to embroider and like doing it. Some of the bags they embroider are sent together with what the parents have made and they are of good quality. We hope that our children will take over from us as we are growing old.
This Project has truly brought dignity in us and the acceptance of others towards the Batwa People in our community. Before the project, we were not presentable and faced all sorts of discriminations during community events such as community meetings, Umuganda (General cleaning at community level) and weddings held in our villages. This Project enabled us to buy clothes, soap and we could therefore socialise with our neighbours with confidence.
This Project has changed the perception of our community members towards Batwa People. Before we were defined in negative terms but now, that perception has changed. We participate in all activities within our community and are now respected. We no longer face discrimination.
My family and I live in a home provided by the Government of Rwanda. The Policy of homes for vulnerable people started in 2011, when the Government of Rwanda abolished all houses made of grass. The Government of Rwanda wanted to promote houses made of iron sheet for the ordinary people. Before the Project, I was in category 2 of Ubudehe (Social Protection Programme). This is the category of people who can afford to pay Mutuelle (Health Insurance). Mutuelle contribution is 3,000 Rwandan Francs per person. This is equivalent to 3 dollars. Given that I have a big family, I was not in a position to have Mutuelle for everybody. But today, all my family members have Mutuelle. Today, I am able to be given space to talk during meetings. In our Embroidery group, there is no class difference, we all seat together and share ideas.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Netty Butera, Janet Van Der Merwe and all the ladies who always come to pay a visit and encourage us in this project. The Project means a lot to us and we will continue to work hard to sustain it.