Vendors, smugglers form merchandise coop
Written by: George Kalisa
Monday, May 14th, 2018, 11:57
Former women vendors and smugglers in Rubavu District recently told The Light Magazine that they formed Unama Ukore Cooperative that has greatly improved their livelihoods as a result of realizing they were wanted out of illegal and risky trade that they had engaged in for years without any tangible impact on their wellbeing.
They unveiled that their cooperative grows from one level to another every year and has impacted positively on their livelihoods.
Justine Mugwaneza, the President of Unama Ukore Cooperative says before they started this cooperative on January25, 2013 they were vendors who littered the streets of Rubavu and would smuggle goods into Rwanda from DR Congo and out of Rwanda into DR Congo.
“Currently, we sell wares of all sorts and for all age groups and sex. For instance, wesellclothes, shoes and made-in-Rwanda for both sexes. Before we started this cooperative we would sell from the streets and we would also be engaged in smuggling which had put our lives in danger,” observed Mugwaneza.
The 115 member cooperative is grateful to the authorities of Rubavu District for having helped the start the merchandisecooperative. Of the 115 members only one is a man. Mugwaneza said they decided to mostly work with women because they are more committed to work.
“The district helped us in many ways to form this Cooperative and they gave us financial support which was very instrumental for us to take off,” added Mugwaneza.
Asked whether they were discriminating men Mugwaneza said:
“We don’t discriminate against men but our experience shows women are more committed and hardworking,”
Currently they operate from a rented building that is under construction. In spite of renting UnamaUkore President says they have hope in seeing better days ahead. She revealed that they have already bought a piece of land and have a house they can present as collateral to the commercial institutions for a loan at the right time.
“This is not our building; we are renting it currently but as you can see our business is booming. We have already secured a plot where we can construct our own building. Our cooperative owns a house that can be presented to the bank in case we need a loan to start constructing our own premises,” Mugwaneza said.
She said they will soon build their own building.
Francoise Akimana, the Vice President said business was doing well and they have many customers. “Things have so far worked in our favour and you can see customers flooding our stalls”
As part of her message to women as Rwanda joins the rest of the world to mark the International Labour Day on May1, Mugwaneza called on Rwandan women to look at the example of Unama Ukore and learn how to value work and thirst to work in order to improve their welfare besides contributing to the country’s development.
“For sure, we encourage our fellow women to appreciate our example and gather self-pity into energy to work. This will not only help women improve their wellbeing but also provides an opportunity to contribute to the development of our country which is a responsibility of every citizen,” she observed.