"I know how to negotiate to get favourable solutions around big challenges in my working conditions"
Thirty-five-year old Fatouma Mukamugenzi is another Kigali vendor who is casting her gaze to the future. Even in the heat of mid-day, she shows no sign of wilting as she sits behind her stall, laden as it is with limes, mangos, bananas, and oranges Instead, she’s thinking through the skills and trainings she needs to become an international trader.
“I need education on business management and planning,” she says. “Training on negotiation skills, leadership, and loans.” She also wants to benefit from the experience of others through exchange visits, so she can improve her business.
It’s hard to imagine that just four years ago, this savvy business woman was struggling to feed her family. “My family was poor,” she says. “I was married when I was 16 years old only. As a too-young lady, it was really difficult to take care of my family since my husband was jobless. We couldn’t get enough food, shelter, medical insurance, or school fees for our children.”
Street vending proved the only occupation open to Fatouma. “I used to sell fruits, but the vending conditions on the street were hopeless. I had to carry products on my head the whole day, whether the weather was bad or good. Sometimes, we might encounter car accidents or robbers.”
Like so many other street vendors, Fatouma felt alone. But when she joined SYTRIECI, she began to meet others in the same situation. They started to share experiences, she says, and then began working together. Fatouma joined others to form an SSF and to take trainings on rights and negotiation skills, both of which have helped her acquire a market stall and navigate around the challenges of working with market management.
Now, Fatouma says, “I know how to negotiate to get favourable solutions around big challenges in my working conditions.” She also uses her negotiation skills for the benefit of others after being elected to the national negotiation committee SYTRIECI has created.
Her income is further stabilized through working collaboratively with other market vendors. “For now,” Fatouma says, “I can be sure to vend even when I am not at my vending place because my colleagues can sell my products for me, which was not the same when I had to carry products on my head everywhere I went.”
Not only do Fatouma’s new skills in negotiation and collaboration have a ripple effect, benefitting others in the community, but they have also had a dramatic impact in her own family’s life.
“There are things that I can do that I couldn’t do before joining SYTRIECI,” she says, “I can now pay school fees for my children, feed them, and pay their medical insurance. I have a house, where before I had to pay monthly rent. I can manage a big amount of money and invest it correctly.”
With this security, grounded in learning, skills, and community, Fatouma can now afford to dream.