The Happiest Woman in the World

The Happiest Woman in the World

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Two dollars’ worth of potato seed and fertilizer, an unused corner of her husband’s field, a successful harvest. These are a few of the factors behind Marie Goretti Nyabenda’s claim: “I am the happiest woman in the world.”

Goretti, a 34-year-old from a remote hillside in northern Burundi, netted $4.70 from her potato harvest in 2007. She used this money to rent a market stall and stock it with bananas and peanuts. Her profits were enough to buy a goat, which soon had a kid.

The catalyst for these and many more life changes for Goretti was joining a program called Umwizero (Hope for the Future). With support from CARE, Goretti and thousands like her have formed village savings and loan groups. Each group of about 20 women uses only its members’ modest savings to grow a pot of money. The women borrow and then repay their loans with interest.

Umwizero also helps women attain new skills and understand and pursue their rights. CARE works with men and local leaders, too, to examine and challenge social norms that marginalize women.

At first, Goretti’s husband was reluctant to let her join Umwizero. He remained suspicious of the group until Goretti and 20 other members surprised him by cultivating the family’s field. They finished in one day what would have taken her a month. He began to see the benefits to the entire family, and started giving Goretti greater respect and freedom.

Now, Goretti is finally allowed to leave home without her husband’s permission. Before, she was not permitted to socialize with other women, but now she treasures the support she receives from her group. She is learning to read and write, visits a health clinic and has gained the knowledge and confidence to stand up for her rights.

Says Goretti: “I wish that [Umwizero] could touch all the other women who are like I was before, so they can taste my happiness.”

Goretti Nyabenda smiles when she thinks how far she's come with determination and CARE's help.


Goretti Nyabenda receives CARE's "I am Powerful" Award