100 Weeks

October 30 2023 | by

ONE-hundred weeks – just short of two years. Would this be sufficient time to turn around the lives of some of the poorest women living in rural areas near to Ruhengeri, Rwanda? Based on the success of a pilot scheme in 2020, a new project was initiated in the area of Busogo.

“The 100 Week Project is a micro-project aimed at strengthening economy-oriented initiatives for rural poor working women,” explains Abbot Narcisse Ngirimana, director of Caritas Diocésaine de Ruhengeri. “It is a revolutionary new way to give help. The poorest women are given a small amount of money directly each week to help them lift themselves out of extreme poverty in 100 weeks. The money goes directly to the mothers of families who are only able to eat once per day, but who have the initiative to create an income-generating activity and are willing to keep us informed about how they are using the money.” Each of the women would receive the equivalent of €8 per week in the local currency.


Success story


The women who were chosen for the project were married, widowed, or responsible for a family, between the ages of 20 and 40, economically active, and ambitious to work to get out of poverty. “Twenty families were chosen, consisting of 131 people in total,” says Abbot Narcisse. “The total cost of the project over the 100 weeks would amount to €17,400, and we had local contributions of €1,400. Consequently, we asked St. Anthony’s Charities for a grant of €16,000.” This was granted willingly, and the project commenced in April 2021.

Unfortunately, by June 2021 the community was experiencing high rates of COVID-19. Many hospitals were overwhelmed and many souls lost their lives. “For the 100 Week Project, there was a requirement for the women to meet once per week, but obviously during the pandemic it wasn’t possible to distribute the money this way, and payment was arranged using a mobile-phone money system. The women communicated by phone, too.”

The 100 Week Project concluded at the end of February 2023. Its success is beyond any doubt. Four of the women in the project had managed not only to lift themselves out of poverty, but were also able to offer work to others. Fifteen had, with some effort, managed to lift themselves out of poverty. And only one was unable to do so by her own efforts due to sickness during the second half of the project. She was helped by the project supervisor and by the women in the group to ensure that she would not find herself back in poverty.

Each of the women has her own success story, but here are just three stories of how the women’s lives have improved as a result of participation in the project.


Joseline’s story


Before joining the project, Joseline was working for other people earning only €0.70 to €0.80 per day. “We were barely surviving – one meal in the evening of polenta and peanut sauce for me and my three children,” she says. The mother and children had been abandoned by their father who, as a result of the poverty, had gone to live in Uganda. “Now, as a result of this project, we have three meals per day, health care, a small piece of land, a renovated house to live in, and a cow.” But the greatest joy for Joseline’s family came later. “My husband returned from Uganda after hearing that our situation had improved,” she explains. “He asked for forgiveness in front of the whole family. Now he helps me by buying potatoes in the village to then resell them in the city. The children have found their dad again and there is peace in our family. Thank you St. Anthony’s Charities for introducing me to this project.”


Florentine’s story


“After receiving the grant I started to buy green bananas to leave for a week and sell them back as yellow bananas,” says Florentine. “I put aside the profit. After 6 months I had already repaid the full amount, and I had capital to continue my activity. In the meantime I bought the little pigs you see in the photo. Before receiving this grant I had abandoned my faith. My hope was lost and I did not want to be a part of society. I felt ashamed and marginalized. But I have started going to Mass again. I thank the women of the 100 Week Project who have helped me and, above all, have given me the courage to no longer isolate myself from the community. Now I feel fulfilled and integrated into the community again.”


Marita’s story


Marita had a very tiring and difficult life of labour before she joined the 100 Week Project. The family were only able to eat once per day, and her two children were suffering from malnutrition. “This project completely changed my life,” she says. “With the money I received, I invested in cultivating potatoes, and as you can see, I also bought a cow, which has recently calved. The cow gives us 8 litres per day, of which my children drink 2 litres. A neighbour who has a small child receives 1 litre, and we sell the remaining 5 litres. There is no longer any question of malnutrition! Thank you to St. Anthony’s Charities and to the readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony who donated to the project. I hope that the project will continue to reach the large number of people who are still living in the same misery as I was.”

At the end of the project each of the women has their own activity, which is generating enough funds to support them. These activities will continue. Not only that, but there has also been great solidarity between the women. Those who participated have also helped non-participants by, for example, supplying them with food, supporting the construction of a house for one non-participant, and sending another person to professional training. This positive experience of microcredit, autonomy, and solidarity had led to a second 100-Week Project being initiated in Busogo, which is already showing great results.


Updated on October 30 2023