It’s a rainy day here in Gisozi, Rwanda, but no one’s spirits are dampened by the weather. Thirteen newly married couples are being cheered on by their guests as they parade around the dance floor to traditional singing and drumming.
These 13 couples have just legalised their marriages, after learning about the protection it offers women and their children. The training they had at Network for Africa’s Aspire project has shown them that marriage affords them access to their rights, including child protection and inheritance rights. The women celebrated the progress they have achieved through Aspire; one woman read a poem she’d written for the occassion, which included the line “We are no longer a problem for our community, but the solution.”
Aspire’s staff spoke to Francoise, who legalised her marriage today. Francoise is 33 years old and has 5 children, who range in age from 2 to 12 years old.
Why did you and your partner decide to legalise your marriage?In order to protect and value the rights of our children. Now I will have more respect in my family and in the community and I will have to my inheritance. We will also have access to government services now like loans from the banks.
What problems did you and your partner have before you were legally married?Even though I was the mother of my partner’s children, I didn’t have the right to ask for inheritance from my family or my husband’s family because I was not recognized as his legal wife.
What made your husband understand the benefits of legalising your marriage?Even though I have 5 children, and other families are aware that I am the mother of 5 children, I was considered a prostitute. The authorities don’t consider me a legal woman. After the birth of my fourth child, I was thinking about what would happen if my husband died, the situation and the problems I would face. Even though we don’t have much money, those fears made me feel pressure to legalise my marriage.
Are you excited for the wedding?Yes. When I was still young girl, I dreamed of having a big wedding and I am very happy because my dream came true.
Is your partner excited too?He is also excited and thanks Network for Africa for supporting our family.
How has Aspire helped in this process?We were keen to legalise our marriage, but we could not afford it on our own because we have many other responsibilities. Thanks to Network for Africa, we are achieving our dreams.