Our Work


Young Rwandan women with their infants.

Making a Difference for Women and Families in Rwanda

Zirikana (meaning “Never Forget”) is the umbrella organization for the two non-profits in Rwanda, Living with Happiness and Rwandan Mothers Team. As young girls, founders Aimee and Clarisse survived the 1994 genocide against Tutsi, but lost their parents and 4 siblings. The genocide left the country ravaged, families destroyed, and many girls growing up without a mother figure. Through this tragedy, however, has grown hope, and rejuvenation of life and culture. Zirikana promotes and facilitates mental health, parenting education, empowerment, entrepreneurship, and youth development.



“Now I can laugh, but not before”

Clarisse Mukashumbusho Cechetto and  Aimée  Josephine Utuza, co-founders of Zirikana

Zirikana founders, Clarisse and Aimee.

Micro-Enterprise – Groups of 7

What they found when they came together in community was friendship and support.  They were no longer struggling on their own. 

Working Together Builds Relationships and Skills

When Aimée and Clarisse first brought these women together each one was struggling to make a bit of money each day, usually by selling vegetables from a basket carried on their heads. The money was barely enough to feed their families, let alone pay school and health insurance fees. Most are single mothers, some with many children, who would play in the streets with other “street children” while their mothers worked. 

What they found when they came together in community was friendship and support.  They were no longer struggling on their own. 

In 2018, Aimée had the idea to help the women to become financially self-sustaining through micro-enterprise.  She formed the women into groups of 7, according to their common interests and each group chose a business to create. Businesses range from making and selling jewelry or clothing to selling vegetables, grains, eggs, milk or phone cards in a local market. 

Each group elected a president, treasurer and a secretary.  They were taught basic business skills and given a business ledger book to keep track of their expenditures, sales and profits.  Money was raised through generous donors in Ontario Canada for the initial capital expenses, such as renting a market stall and purchasing their first quota of product or materials.

The 7 partners arrange a rotating schedule for the selling of their products.   The treasurer manages the finances, saving enough from the profits to cover expenses and purchase the next quota of product or materials.  A small amount is saved each month for future capital expenses and growth of the business such as the purchase of a sewing machine. The remaining profits are distributed equally amongst the partners.

Many benefits have arisen from the groups of 7. The women have built skills and confidence. They are very proud of their success as business owners and their ability to independently support their families, some sending their children to school for the first time.  Working together has provided them with a level of support and friendship that most had never experienced in their lives. 

Here are the stories of some of the groups of 7. The title for each is the name (translated into English) the group chose for themselves.


Rwandan woman selling grains in market

Rwandan woman market vegetable seller

Rwandan woman market vegetable seller

Rwandan womens community



Group of Rwandan Women


This group describes themselves as vulnerable women. Some are single mothers. None of them had steady work except to sell vegetables from baskets on their heads. However, selling produce without a license is against the law and they could go to prison if caught. Since joining Living with Happiness and forming their group of 7, one of them said “Now I can laugh, but not before.”

Their project is to sell fresh vegetables in a market stall. They meet once per week, and take turns selling the vegetables. Some of the earnings are saved for continued investment in the business. Their dreams are to develop the business. “We are together in order to help each other to pay the school fees and health insurance.” One day they hope to be able to extend their help to others beyond the group.

“We are together in order to help each other to pay the school fees and health insurance.”


Group of Rwandan women

“Abajyamugambi” (One Group Goal)

This group of friends came together, all of them single mothers when they started. They struggled to feed their children and pay the rent. When they started coming to Living With Happiness meetings, they had new hope. “Now our lives are changing”.

They are getting financial and business advice and have started a project to sell charcoal. “We believe we will go far!” They started with nothing, putting together what money they could to buy 2 sacks of charcoal. They need more capital to rent market space so they can sell the charcoal.

Their dreams are to have good health, to be able to send their children to school and to “live an easy life.”

“Now our lives are changing”



This group was formed simply with the common bond of not having jobs. Hope is a great name for them as they have big dreams! Their goal is to make clothing and tote bags of inexpensive Kitenge fabric, then sell the items for a profit. Of their group of 7, 2 of them know how to sew.

Their second goal is to be women who are self-sufficient, not depending on anyone else for survival. They want to be able to make enough money that they can save some of it. The third goal is to purchase a sewing machine so they don’t have to rent one. 

Their 4th dream is to be successful business women, adding wedding dresses and wedding decorations to their offerings, and to one day be able to help their neighbours. They would also like to learn English and some day travel and extend their market beyond Rwanda!

Their goal is to make clothing and tote bags of inexpensive Kitenge fabric, then sell the items for a profit.


Group of Rwandan women

“Abahujumurimo” (Those who share work)

This group’s business is selling second hand clothing in the market. They say there is a big demand for second hand clothing in Rwanda. 

This group also has many goals. They wish to have enough success in their sales to be able to save some of the profits, expand the business, and increase the size of the group.

In the future, their dreams are to complete high school, teach other women about running a business, to be self-sufficient, gain something of their own and to live with happiness!

In the future, their dream is to live with happiness!


Rwandan women with baby

“Better Tomorrow”

This group sells eggs. They met at the Living With Happiness meetings. They are an older group of women who wish to contribute to their own households as well as to their community. They wish to gain some independence through their business and to progress, moving out of poverty.

During a community meeting, as each of the small groups updated the larger group on their progress, another group was sharing about their business selling chickens. The leader of the egg-selling group shouted out “We need chickens, we’ll buy them from you!” How perfect is that?

They wish to progress, moving out of poverty


Group of Rwandan women

“Aimée (Love) Family”

This group makes bead jewelry and other traditional crafts. One of the women started making jewelry on her own and now with the group working together, they can pool their ideas and skills to broaden the business. Their dream is to export their crafts internationally.

Their dream is to export their crafts internationally

More Info

Donation Options:

  1. Use the Paypal donation link to donate by credit card 
  2. Send e-transfer to Aimée: utuza76@gmail.com
  3. Mail a cheque to: 
  • Mary Beth Bezzina
  • 573 Upper Queen Street
  • London, ON
  • Canada   N6C 3T8

Learning through music:

  • “Ubutsinzi” by Niyo Bosco and Aimee U.


To connect with us or request someone to speak to your group, please use the contact form below.

Thank-you for your support!

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