This week, members of Five Talents' US team are in New York for the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Several Five Talents partners are also participating in the event, including Mothers' Union community development coordinator Matilde, from Burundi. Here, we talk with Matilde (below on right) about her work with women and families in Burundi:
How long have you worked with Mothers' Union?
I have worked with Mothers' Union for more than two years as a Community Development Coordinator. I became a member of Mothers' Union in 2005 and I have participated in different activities with the Mothers' Union group in my parish, activities like singing in church and visiting the sick and elderly.
Can you please tell us about your family?
I was born in 1978 and baptized in a Roman Catholic Church. My parents died following an illness in 1993, when I had just turned 15 years old. My younger siblings and I were taken up by an orphanage. I later graduated from secondary school as a qualified primary school teacher in 2003. When I was taking my secondary school in an Anglican school, I liked to attend Bible study and fellowships, and I experienced a spiritual change and growth. From there, I decided that I would become a member of the Anglican Church. In the same church, I met my husband Eric Ntiyankundiye, who is now an ordained pastor. I thank God for that. We have three children: Mugisha Nina Loica, Nishimwe Happy Christa, and Iteka King Merick.
What is it about microfinance that excites you?
Most women in rural areas in Burundi are not used to manipulating money. But with the programmes like the Mothers' Union Literacy and Development Programme (MULDP), or the Savings and Credit initiatives, it is exciting to see how they can actively participate in income-generating activities and satisfy basic household needs and those things they need that their husbands are not providing. It's an opportunity for them to own small properties in their families and talk about the family resource management. In few words, microfinance is an open window for women to come out of the shadow of their husband and have a say about the wellbeing of their families. Also, through the solidarity groups that women form, they are able to talk about their daily problems.
What do you like to do when you are not working?
When I am not working, I like taking care of my children and helping them to revise their school subjects and do their homework. I also like cooking for my family. Sometimes, I go to the hospital to visit the sick.
Can you tell us a success story from 2011 about one saving group you work with?
In the administrative province of Karusi, Burundi, there is a group of 20 people with 15 females and 5 males. The group was formed in December 2010. All the members had been beneficiaries of the MULDP and so it was easy for them to form a solidarity group. Before the training on saving and credit, they used to work for money as a group and share two-thirds of their earnings, which was not enough to allow them initiate individual income-generating activities. Also, the organisation structure of their group was informal. After their training, they understood that they could generate individual savings. They started saving [both individually and collectively]. Meanwhile, the training helped them to acquire association management skills. The group started giving out loans to members in May 2011. By December 2011, they had already given out 12 loans to 12 people equivalent to 150,000 Burundian Francs (US$116). The loans range from $3.85 to $11.56. The main income-generating activities they do include: buying and selling bananas, cassava flour, small business of household items, and planting some crops, like vegetables or beans. The group leader, Mr Mutabazi Dominique, said during a field visit, "We used to wait for handouts for us to survive; but with saving and credit, we now know that development will come from us if we are facilitated [organized into savings groups and supported]."
What is the greatest challenge that you face in your daily work?
The fact we do not have means of transport makes it hard for us to carry on the monitoring work as planned for. Microfinance needs constant monitoring and evaluation.
What do you plan to tell the people you will meet in New York at the UN Commission on the Status of Women?
I will talk about the work of Mothers' Union in our Diocese, and I will tell them some of the success stories from the Diocese where the development programmes of Mothers' Union have changed people's lives. I will also mention that the work of Mothers' Union has allowed the church to reach the most vulnerable groups of people, like widows, women, children heads of household, people living with HIV/AIDS and the elderly. The microfinance programmes have helped to strengthen family life ministry because financial issues are being addressed by both male and female. Parents are able to support their children in school because they can buy school uniforms and other materials. The microfinance programme of Mothers' Union and Five Talents is contributing to the reconstruction of Burundi through micro-economic activities of the beneficiaries, the solidarity of group members and social cohesion.