We have been working with a number of widows groups for some months now. One significant difficulty these women face in trying to set up their businesses is the number in each group. A culture exists here, encouraged by the government and the churches, of forming large cooperatives to work together. The result is that what little earnings are made are shared thinly among as many as twenty individuals.
Some figures we have been pulling together illustrate the problems facing these groups. Based on responses from our group members, an individual needs something around £50 a month to live. A family, and nine children is not unheard of in Rwanda, can push this figure to £150. We are estimating the breadline to be around £40 – £50 per month and we know families whose income is less than this. Only today Bronwen was told that one of the mammas who helps with the INN Club hadn’t eaten yesterday.
When we include government taxation (a subject close to our hearts) the picture becomes surreal. Tax of 20% is charged on earnings over £30 per month which is barely enough to feed a dog. We have the very real situation where women who are able to scrape together enough to feed their family on a thin diet of beans and rice are expected to keep accounts and file a tax return with a year’s worth of tax. Many of these widows are illiterate!