Aspire has so far helped 450 vulnerable but resilient women rebuild their lives in the aftermath of Rwanda’s genocide. Aspire’s dynamic founder, Peace Ruzage, started the programme to help the women in her community who could not find work, and were struggling to offer their children a better future. Many were widows or single mothers, illiterate and unskilled, HIV positive, and victims of domestic violence. All had witnessed unimaginable violence during the genocide.
Aspire started in urban Kigali, and in 2013 a second branch of the programme was started in rural Rutunga (about an hour’s drive outside of Kigali).
Aspire Kigali trains 50 women each year in literacy, English, nutrition and cooking, business skills, their rights and responsibilities and advocacy. The programme equips them with the knowledge, skills, confidence and the support network they need to become self-sufficient and empowered. Women are taught vocational skills and, upon graduating, join income generating co-operatives, producing and selling necklaces, greeting cards, vegetables, eggs, goats and chickens. Recent Aspire graduates also play a role in training the new intake, offering a ready support network. Aspire’s graduates can read and write and have marketable skills, enabling them to educate and feed their children, breaking the cycle of poverty.
Rural Rutunga faces more deprivation than Kigali. There is no electricity, and women usually have to walk miles to fetch water. Before starting the Rutunga branch, Aspire worked with local officials to select the most vulnerable 150 women in the area. Those women make up the inaugural class of Aspire Rutunga. This Aspire branch is similar to the one in Kigali, the main difference being that the women learn commercial agriculture rather than vocational skills.
By working together, the women of Aspire make their own choices and take control of their future. Aspire’s mission is founded on the belief that the promotion of human dignity and women’s rights will lead to sustainable community development and strong and lasting grassroots reconciliation.