Crowdfunding for women street vendors in Rwanda: Challenges & Lessons Learned

StreetNet is currently developing a capacity-building crowdfunding pilot project, in which several of our affiliates are learning how to build an effective campaign and support their membership.

Jeanette Nyiramasengesho is one of the participants of the project, representing the Syndicat des Travailleurs Indépendants de l’Économie Informelle ), in Rwanda. Their campaign was focused on supporting 300 women street vendors who are currently facing many challenges due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Creating the campaign

“We decided to support women because, in our trade union, over 80% of our members are women.” Explains Jeanette “Also, here in our country, the majority of street vendors are women. Many of them are in a vulnerable situation and, because we know women are the pillar of the family, we look at how we could support them because when you support women, you support the family.”

Though SYTRIECI prioritized food security for the campaign, they are aware that the women are currently facing many problems and that the lockdown affected them at several levels. “This lockdown, like in other countries, affected especially informal economy workers like street vendors. And even before COVID-19, they already had many problems related to social security. So, COVID-19 exhausted their efforts. Therefore, we will start with food and then we will continue to support them in solving other problems.” says Jeanette.

By following the detailed step by step training provided by Marco Kuntze, Director of Relishing Digital and the consultant hired by StreetNet to assist with this project, Jeanette managed to set up a crowdfunding campaign on the platform Given Gain.

Reaching out to supporters

After the campaign was set up, the main challenge was to share it with as many people as possible. “We started sharing in on our Facebook page, we used email contacts. We encouraged people from different institutions, friends, organizations, to make donations and to share with their friends.” Says Jeannette.

Promoting the campaign also encouraged SYTRIECI to upgrade their social media presence. “Before we did not use our social media. Sometimes we would post pictures for events, but not much. This campaign helped us to use our social media accounts and to know many things about it. Because when you do not use something, you do not know what you can do with the accounts. So, for example, we had a Facebook account but not a Facebook page, so this campaign helped us to improve how we use our social media.

It was the first time SYTRIECI had ever tried to organize a campaign like this. So far, the reaction of their supporters has been overwhelmingly positive. “Some people encourage us and say “Congratulations for having such a campaign!”, or “It is very good, you will go far”, says Jeannette “Our campaign is working very well for us, because even our members are saying its very good, it’s very nice.”

Jeanette had to learn new skills to set up and manage the campaign. While she is the first to admit that it is not an easy task, she is a firm believer that other organizations should try and make an effort. “It is not easy. We set a campaign, we create a story, but when you start the campaign you realize you have to make efforts by sharing, sharing, encouraging people, working, looking at the page every day, changing something…it’s not easy, but it’s possible!”

Lessons Learned

For Jeanette, the key was following the instructions laid out in the training sessions and have the possibility to approach Marco and StreetNet mentors. By doing that, she says, she was able to overcome challenges and did not consider any part of the process particularly difficult.

She summarizes three main lessons learned from participating in the training:

THE STORY MATTERS – A LOT!

When you have a good story, “it touches people and it gets donors”, says Jeannette. Plus, there is a critical methodology involved in writing a good story. “How to create story, know the steps, and also how to include something important.” She adds. The storytelling process was great for skills-development.

REACHING PEOPLE IS CRUCIAL

Besides writing and storytelling skills, developing the campaign also helped Jeanette to understand how various communication tools could be optimized. “I was not aware of how I can use our emails, pages, social media accounts to do our work. That is something very important that I learned from this campaign”. From mass email campaigns to targeted messages, Jeanette was able to practice important communication skills for every trade union. “That is also something that can help us for future campaigns.” She adds.

CAMPAIGN RESEARCH CAN CONTRIBUTE TO THE WORK OF THE ORGANIZATION

One of the positive things of developing this campaign was the research SYTRIECI had to undertake so they could support their members. “By choosing our story and topic, we took time to see the impact of COVID-19 and what was the situation” explains Jeanette “That also helped us to know our issues very well”.

However, Jeanette also stresses that the training taught her how COVID-19 was not a reason to stay quiet. Participating in the sessions and seeing how StreetNet and other organizations were still carrying on with their projects despite the pandemic encouraged Jeanette to keep approaching her members.

She also appreciated the continued support of StreetNet and Marco after the training was over. “You continued to look at where we are going and to follow our campaign. That is very important, because it shows we are working together and StreetNet is following our activities.”

You can still donate to SYTRIECI’s crowdfunding campaign and support 300 women street vendors in Rwanda. Jeanette encourages you to donate and share the campaign in your network so they can ensure food security for their members!