Combat Violence in 50 Rwanda Households

by Global Grassroots

We'd love to share a profile of team President of Construct the Family, Jeanine:

by Christina Hueschen

                The Construct the Family (Turwubake in the local language of Kinyarwandaoffice sits on a dirt road close to the Nyamirambo market in Nyarugenge District, Rwanda.  It has one table, seven wooden chairs with tiger-print seat covers, and cheery yellows walls stained with dirty fingerprints.  The Turwubake team leaves the door open during meetings, and the tattered floral sheet that hangs in the door frame blows into the room, then drifts out, then flutters back in, peacefully.

                Peace: that is Turwubake’s goal, in a nutshell.  The Turwubake team leaders identify gender-based violence as a tremendous problem in their home community – because of both its widespread existence and its crippling consequences.  They talk fluently about women without rights, value, or decision-making power in their own homes; discrimination against daughters; and unplanned pregnancies or cases of HIV among domestic workers forced to act as mistresses.  As Turwubake president Jeanine explains, the effects of violence against women touch all members of society, “even those who are not victims, even those who are not perpetrators.”

                 Jeanine has a tentative, melodic voice and an unlimited capacity for human connection.  She grew up in southern Rwanda, raised by a grandmother who taught her by example to think of others first.  When she lost her family in the 1994 genocide and had to drop out of high school, Jeanine joined an association that cared for HIV/AIDs patients at the local hospital.  In 2008 she heard about Global Grassroots and applied without hesitation.  “I knew that was my experience,” she says.  Her tone is warm but matter-of-fact.  “I think I have been trained to be a social change agent all my life.”

                 Jeanine, vice-president Rahema, and treasurer Vianney know what a tremendous impact their project will have.  They do not have degrees in development or gender studies; in fact, only Vianney finished high school.  But they are experts on their community and its needs because they themselves are members of it.  Rahema, a striking woman in her seventies, speaks of visiting female neighbors and finding them upset because of recent abuse.  The team also witnesses reports of gender-based violence at monthly neighborhood meetings.  They have noticed, in particular, the spread of violence against female domestic workers.

                 With Global Grassroots’ help, Turwubake designed and conducted an issue study about domestic violence in their community.  The results were alarming.  Fifty-three percent of men believe they have the right to beat their wife if she returns home late at night.  Sixty-five percent of wives report physical abuse by their husbands.  Seventy-nine percent of female domestic workers experience verbal abuse at their jobs.  In this survey, eighty-four percent of women domestic workers asked Turwubake to teach them a technical skill to allow them to leave the violence they face at their domestic jobs.  Economic empowerment will give women independence, self-respect, and the option to leave abusive jobs or relationships.

                 When Jeanine isn’t doing work for Turwubake, she helps support her family by buying and re-selling clothes on the street.  Some days, when she is so busy with Turwubake that she goes days without doing any other business.  She acknowledges the sacrifice of her time, but Jeanine sees the responsibilities of life as two-part: “I have to take care of myself and my family, but I must also save time for those people I am supposed to help.”  Turwubake’s beneficiaries are family, too.  Jeanine has had more memorable, moving conversations with them than she can count.  “One woman I talked to,” she explains, “told me that her husband undervalues her and does not respect her because she has to ask him for everything.  Even a candle – everything that is needed in her family.”  The woman was overjoyed to hear about Turwubake’s plans and activities.  She expressed her hopeful excitement that if she made a little money sewing, she would have the power and independence to stand up to her husband.

                 “Talking to people and sharing their experiences,” Jeanine says, “is sometimes painful because they may tell you something that is very sad, and you feel pity for them.  But sometimes it can make you happy because they choose you to entrust with their secret.  This empowers you to listen carefully to them and then try to see what you and your team must do to remove those people’s pain.”

                 Seventeen years ago, Jeanine’s community failed her – failed to keep most of her family alive.  Today, she feels empowered by her community’s trust that she will help protect them from violence.  She draws faith in her community from her community’s faith in her. Meet Jeanine, one of the world’s conscious change agents: inward and outward focused; healing herself as she heals others.

* * * * * * *

With the unfortunate passing of team member Rehema this past fall, the Construct the Family venture team has been unable to reconvene their activities this past quarter.  They remain committed to the issue, but have taken time to mourn and focus on their own families.  We will be temporarily retiring this venture from GlobalGiving until the team is prepared to resume their activities.

If you would like to support other social ventures designed by and for women by Global Grassroots' graduates, please consider a contribution and read more about our work here:  Thank you for your support! 

Dear friends,


This week we mourn the passing of Rehema UWIREMYE, a graduate of Global Grassroots Academy for Conscious Change and an executive committee member of Turwubake.  The venture is temporarily on hold, and we will update you when the team has decided to resume operations.   



Global Grassroots is making innovative efforts to meet the growing demand for our programs and has created exciting new partnerships to catalyze conscious social change around the globe:

  • We are piloting a new “uAcademy” bootcamp for juniors and seniors at Dartmouth College this fall, through a partnership with the Dickey Center for International Understanding and the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy. This program will enable students to learn and apply our methodology of Conscious Social Change, driving social change in their home communities and abroad. This engaging new course represents a unique fusion of personal leadership, global citizenship, social entrepreneurship, and international development. We are thrilled to partner with Dartmouth College, and we hope to offer our workshops to more universities next spring!
  • We are initiating our first partnership program with the Komera Project in Rwanda, offering our social entrepreneurship training to 57 vulnerable high school girls this November. Our Girls Academy for Conscious Change will support the next generation of change agents in recognizing their power to transform themselves and their communities. Click here for more info:
  • We are currently piloting our “eAcademy” e-learning program with women’s groups in ten countries and are preparing to publicly launch the platform in early 2013. This pioneering program will allow women’s groups in developing countries around the world to access our social entrepreneurship training online for free. Not only will these women be equipped to drive change in their own communities, but they will also become part of our global network of grassroots change agents, with access to ideas and best practices shared by other women around the globe.

Beginning in their own communities, Global Grassroots’ change agents are working building a culture that values, supports and empowers girls and women worldwide. Please support our continued work with vulnerable women change agents. Donate today: 


Over the last few months, Construct the Family decided to move its operations to a new section of Kigali called Nyamirambo.  Some of the initial target population they were serving, including domestic workers and women in abusive relationships, were having difficulties attending due to distance and personal circumstances that made it hard for them to leave work.  It is our understanding that the move was decided based upon making their programs more available to their target population.  However, as a result of the change of location, the local officials have required the team to pay annual taxes upfront for the year.  At a cost of approximately $200, it has been beyond the reach of the venture.  The sewing training program, which was designed to offer abused women new economic alternatives and thus freedom to leave abusive relationships, attempted to rent their sewing machines and make more marketable products to cover this operating shortfall.  However, they were unable to make up the additional need by the deadline and were forced by the local government to close their operations.  We did not learn of this challenge until after the closure had taken place, and we are now working closely with the team to help them raise the necessary funding, and redesign their venture's operations for both greater social impact and financial sustainability. We will continue to update you as the project evaluates its needs and develops its new strategy for resuming its operations. 


Global Grassroots & Women for Water Partner to Support Women's Empowerment Worldwide

Global Grassroots is excited to announce that we have been chosen as one of four partners for the first year of the new 3-year Women for Water campaign initiated by the Global Water Challenge

This initiative will empower a billion women to join together and raise a billion dollars to fight the global water crisis that disproportionately affects women and children.

Click here for more information about the Women for Water campaign, or check out their video!

Join us in supporting sustainable, women-led water ventures that provide livelihoods, hope and safety for thousands of women!

* * * * * * * *

New Conscious Social Change Practitioner Training begins this summer!

This program, open to anyone interested in personal transformation and social change, provides an intensive and experience-based training in the methods, philosophy, skills and frameworks of Conscious Social Change. Beginning July 1 is Part 1 of our three-part Conscious Social Change Practitioner Certification Program, which enables trainees to become certified in Global Grassroots' core curriculum.  Email us at if you would like more information or are interested in participating!

Global Grassroots is thrilled to announce the launch of three new, sustainable social ventures in Rwanda, designed by and for grassroots women...

Kind People: Providing Training to Promote Legal Marriage and Protect Women's Property Rights
With the generous sponsorship of Maura Shaughnessy and family, Global Grassroots officially launched social venture “Kind People” in the Ruhango District of southern Rwanda. Kind People will train 400 men and women about the laws protecting the family and the mutual benefits of legal marriage and build local advocacy clubs in 9 communities.  By promoting women's rights to property through legal marriage, they will advance equality and reduce oppression in relationships. Kind People will also invest in a motorcycle taxi, which will help women report incidents of violence, provide transportation for follow-up with victims, and earn revenue as a public taxi.  They hope to become the 'go-to' network for victims of domestic violence, serving a geographical area with an estimated population of 12,000 couples.  Learn more:

Education for Young Girls: Preventing Harassment of and Drop-out Rates Among Girls During Menstruation by Building Safe Latrines at School 
With the generous sponsorship of The Segal Family Foundation and support from MyVillage2Urs, Education for Young Girls has launched. At Cyarwa high school, female students frequently drop out because they feel unsafe or uncomfortable using the restroom at school.  There is only one set of latrines that are shared by all students and teachers, and boys watch the girls while they used the restroom; not even teachers are spared from this harassment. Education for Young Girls will build separate latrines for females and males so that boys cannot harass female students or teachers.  They also plan to educate their community about reproductive health, reaching 2000 students, 1000 parents and 600 community members to end harassment and keep girls in school. Learn more:

People of Love: Providing Accessible, Clean Water to Eliminate the Abuse of Women
With the generous sponsorship of Project High Hopes, People of Love has begun their operations. This team works in the rural area of Kamonyi, where a severe scarcity of water causes and triggers gender violence, domestic conflict, and other social issues affecting women. People of Love will reduce violence related to lack of water by installing a clean water point, visiting couples in their homes and educating those who come to use the water point about domestic violence laws and consequences, gender equality. They will also train families on the use of kitchen gardens to fight malnutrition and the importance of men sharing domestic responsibilities. The team aims to reduce domestic violence in Kamonyi, keep more children in school, increase female participation in community affairs, and build stronger and more gender-equal families.  Learn more: 


Global Grassroots is also working to expand our programming and deepen our impact, through new offerings and partnerships:

Global Grassroots Receives Support for Expansion into Northern Uganda
We are delighted to announce that, through a generous grant from the Imago Dei Fund and with ongoing support from the NoVo Foundation, Global Grassroots will be replicating our Academy for Conscious Change in Northern Uganda this year! We are thrilled to partner with the Imago Dei Fund and the NoVo Foundation in this critical step toward advancing our work for vulnerable women change agents in post-conflict environments.

eAcademy Pilot Begins with a Site Visit in Guatemala
Last week, Global Grassroots initiated the pilot of our new eAcademy - an innovative, interactive, elearning program offering our social entrepreneurship and conscious change training online. In partnership with a team of MBA students from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, we conducted a feasibility study with women’s groups in the Lake Atitlan region of Guatemala to understand how best to target grassroots groups worldwide.  In mid-March, we will pilot the platform with approximately 15 groups in 4 continents, and anticipate our public launch this summer or fall, serving grassroots social ventures in 45 countries worldwide!

GG Founder & President Gretchen Wallace Teaching at Omega NYC

Global Grassroots Founder & President Gretchen Wallace will be facilitating a Women & Happiness workshop at the Omega Institute’s “Omega NYC” retreat, April 20th-22nd. In an interactive session, Gretchen will teach participants how to discover their unique, authentic power and use it to help others. Come away ready to make a difference! To sign up or learn more, go to

Please consider a donation to help Global Grassroots continue to support the social ventures of grassroots change agents worldwide.

The Construct the Family team recently welcomed a new teacher to facilitate their course on sewing and women’s economic independence, in order to allow the previous instructor to take maternity leave. Currently, 5 of their students are earning a steady income independently through tailoring, thanks to their new skills.  This March, 27 more women will graduate from the sewing program.



Global Grassroots is proud to present our interactive annual magazine, Portraits of Transformation, available online at

Meet the individuals, families, and communities that drive our work. 

Explore stories of personal growth and social change, told through photography, writing, and video.

Discover inspiration in their reflections, challenges, and triumphs.

...Please join us in celebrating our impact in 2011, and looking ahead to new growth and continued transformation in 2012.

Global Grassroots works to support women change agents among survivors of war and disaster. Under-served, undereducated, and overburdened, these women would otherwise lack the resources to promote systemic change. But they have profound wisdom about their communities and innovative ideas for social change. Their resilience, courage, and creativity are transforming the world, one community at a time. 

These are their stories…

"The [Global Grassroots] training has taught me to think big... Now, I can go somewhere and knock and ask for a grant or anything.  Apart from that, in my own community, I have become a conflict resolver.  If in the neighborhood there is a conflict, women come to me – they trust me.  I go with them to solve those conflicts.  It helps me to change the quality of life in my community.”         

- Jeanette Muteteri, treasurer of Have a Good Life


“Now I feel like I can move... I can join the other people...I have come to understand my own value.  I know that I can participate in the team.  I can help them; I can give my ideas.”

- Christine Nyirandeya, team advisor of People of Love


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Organization Information

Global Grassroots

Location: Portsmouth, NH - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Gretchen Wallace
President and Founder
Hanover, New Hampshire United States

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