Ruramai had had enough. She packed her bag, determined to leave her husband’s home, and return to her parents’ house in Masvingo.

The 24-year-old young woman grew up in Masvingo province and moved to Manicaland province’s Chipinge district when she married Last Muyambo in 2015. This part of the country — the eastern highlands — is filled with mountainous highs complemented by valley lows that stretch 186 miles along the border with Mozambique. Like the terrain surrounding her, Ruramai’s own life had seen its highs and lows, but now she was stuck in a low. “I admit that life was very difficult,” she said. “I almost gave up on my marriage because of poverty.

 

The couple has three children together, but Last had struggled to find work in the area, like many of the men in this part of Zimbabwe, he moved to Mozambique to find work to support his family. He was able to get a job as an assistant brick layer and initially would send about US$30 home each month. Ruramai would stretch it as far as she could to provide for her children, but it was never enough.

 

“The cash was not that easy to come by,” Ruramai said. “I used to wait for my husband to do everything for the family. Last would return every two months, but his arrivals were not happy reunions. “We used to quarrel a lot, especially when it comes to financial matters,” she said. “Even just a few dollars to buy salt, we would fight over that.”

Ruramai joined the FHI 360 DREAMS program supported by PEPFAR through USAID in 2019, after attending a community outreach. She was trained on economic strengthening and later joined one of the Internal Savings and Lending (ISAL) groups. She was also referred to DREAMS partners for psychosocial support and family planning services.

“At the ISAL club I was challenged to generate my own income, keep proper records for my projects and budgeting. Within one year of joining the ISAL group, I had managed to start three projects from my savings. I started with selling bananas and sweet potatoes and after attending a DREAMS workshop in Mutare, I saved $40 from my daily allowances which I used buy two goats for another project.  I also used savings from my first project to buy 10 village chickens.”

Ruramai’s husband is super proud of his wife, there is peace in the home and food on the table. He has since moved back from Mozambique to support the projects. Selling sweet potatoes motivated Ruramai and her husband to plant their own sweet potato field. The rains were abundant and this year they harvested more than a tonne of sweet potatoes which they sold at the main market in Chipinge. Sometimes community members buy the sweet potatoes directly from their field for consumption and resale.

“This year we raised $300 USD from our sweet potato project. We are already clearing that land to plant vegetables and tomatoes since we now have lots of chicken manure. The chicken project is thriving, I have 25 laying chickens and I sell 3 crates of eggs every week at $4 each. I leave some of the chickens to hatch their eggs and sell the chicks at $1 each. DREAMS changed my life completely; I am now the envy of my community.

Ruramai confirmed that she no longer has plans to go back to Masvingo to live with her parents, she is committed to lead change in her community ward.

“Previously, women were looked down upon,” Ruramai said. “The community used to consider men as being more influential. DREAMS motivated us, and we realized the strength in us, that’s the reason why I’m thriving almost on a daily basis.”