Four years of in-and-out dates with hospitals was the life story of Nadia Gahongayire, all because of the man she called a husband but was in essence a serial wife-batterer.
But after benefiting from the support of a women’s cooperative, Imberehacuheza, that helped her rebuild her tattered life, Gahongayire is today a proud self-reliant mother.
At 25, she married Foste Ngaboyishema in 2007 and the coupled lived in Gicuciro Sector, Gasabo Districts. But despite being a casual labourer who left home every day for work, Gahongayire says she never saw any money. On pay day, the man would just return like nothing happened.
“Once he found me selling millet brew, he smashed the containers, broke the pots and gave me his standards treatment: a beating,” the mother of three says. “If asked about money, he would go into a rage. Returning home drunk was his second life.”
“With time, I learnt that all this time Foste was keeping another woman with whom he had three children, to whom he gave all his money. After only six months of cohabitation, I was forced out of his house. I had suffered regular abuse including fire cases where I had to be hospitalised.
“Only last month, he found me in my house and got a rope, tied it around my hand and neck and started dragging and strangling me until I foamed at the mouth. My child ran to the neighbours who came to my rescue and rushed me to the hospital.”
In 2011, I got a chance to meet a team from ActionAids, who are partners in the fight against gender-based violence.
“After several counselling sessions with the group, we decided to team up and formed a cooperative with 28 other women, all victims of gender-based, as its pioneer members. After training and funding, the cooperative is now actively engaged in petty trading, growing fruits and vegetables and workers in a poultry keeping project.
“We share experiences we encourage each other, we live like a family. With these projects, I have been able to unshackle myself from the brute I previously saw as a husband. I’m now self-reliant, with a cow to give me milk for sale and other farm produces.