“These are strong African women,” said Pastor Savera Bishanga, director of the Karagwe Diocese Women’s Project, as we sat in the small, crowded living room. The Rularo Women’s Group had invited us for tea. With the table set, there was a prayer of blessing, and steaming cups of tea were passed to our grateful hands.
That morning, we visited a couple of the small farms owned by these women, all of whom were either widows or had been abandoned by their husbands. Theirs is a micro-loan success story. In 2002, they had developed an economic plan that included sharing their land and evenly dividing a loan of 16 million shillings ($14,000 USD) received through Bishanga’s project. Within a few years, the women were financially independent and able to support their families. With proceeds from their farm crops, they had purchased chickens, goats or pigs. Several had replaced their tiny mud houses with brick houses. The paid back their loan in just one year.
After our tea, the women presented us with a flower-decorated parcel wrapped in banana leaves. While singing a song, the Rularo Women gave us gifts from their bountiful harvest: pineapples, fresh eggs, and a bag of freshly roasted peanuts. These strong African women blessed us with many gifts this day, including the fruits of their labor and their faithful thanksgiving to our providing God.
Thanks to Pastors JMe and Bob Lowden, ELCA Regional Representatives to Tanzania & Rwanda for this post.