Meet the Artisan: Francine

by Kenzie Keck, writer for DuHope

When Francine was 17, she arrived in the city from the village but failed to get a job because she didn’t have a high enough level of education. Growing up, her homelife was a struggle so she would miss a lot of school and they couldn’t pay school fees. This resulted in her dropping out at 2nd grade.

Now that she was in the city, she wanted to start a business but she didn’t have enough capital. She decided to try to do some domestic work in different homes. But even that began to slow down, Francine had come to a place where she didn’t have any housework. She began to feel like she was running out of options. During that time, Francine met a man who would offer a small amount of money in exchange for sex. Thus, began the cycle of prostitution for nearly a decade.

When she started sex work, she only had one child. She was living with a man, but they were not married. He was mentally unstable, though she was unable to recognize it. They had several more children while living together, 8 altogether, 2 of them being from another woman.

As time went on, it was tough on her to sustain a big family. She was a full-time mom and couldn’t go back to the streets to get money. She desperately needed a way to provide. With enough on her plate as it is, her husband would come home after spending the evening at the bar and beat her. He would then ask for her to cook food that he never even bought as if nothing happened. In order to try and gain some control over her life, she decided to take contraceptives, but they failed. She ended up getting pregnant with twins.

Francine always wanted to start a business, so she started as a street vendor and sold vegetables. Unfortunately, she had regular run-ins with the authorities as it was against the law in Rwanda. Enter in the break and hope that she was waiting for… DuHope. When she joined DuHope she was able to take the business more seriously. She had to start with very little capital, and it was unstable, but she was determined. She wanted a better life, and nothing would get in her way. She was determined to make her business flourish and DuHope would work with her to make sure the children were in school and being taken care of. Finally, a safe way to provide for her family.

Not only did DuHope make sure her family was taken care of, they also provided her with the opportunity of buying and providing food items for their organization to expand her business. On Thursdays she’s given money to buy provisions for DuHope then delivers everything on Monday. She is able to use this money to buy food and put it in her shop. 

Soon enough, the local authorities got to know that she was an employee of DuHope. They also found out that she many several kids and that her husband was not only mentally ill, but also unsupportive and violent. These local leaders have begun to provide support in any way they can. They have been helpful in telling her that when her husband begins to get violent, she can run to them and they’ll intervene to settle the situation.

Francine has proven to be a warrior and a brave woman who has never given up on her family and who tries to understand her husband’s situation. On the national Thanksgiving Day, she was recognized by her community for her resilience and bravery to stay beside her family. She was rewarded 25,000 RWF (About $25 US Dollars) to buy food and necessities for her family, which shows how much of a success she really is.

When you ask Francine about her long-term goals, she’ll speak about her dreams of owning a big vegetable shop in Kigali, she wants her kids to finish school and wants her kids to live a better life than she did.

She is highly disciplined, doesn’t drink or indulge in bad behavior. She is incredibly cautious about how she spends her money. Out of the 8 kids, 6 are hers and the other two are her husband’s. But she never wants people to know or say that they are not hers, because she treats them just as if they were her own.