Athanasie with her granddaughter and mother-in-law. Image credit: Courtesy of Wild Earth Allies

Women Climate Leaders: Athanasie Mukabizimungu

In the village of Kinigi, Rwanda, it is uncommon to meet a woman wearing trousers, a cap, and her sleeves rolled up like Athanasie Mukabizimungu. She is the leader of the Imbereheza Gahunga cooperative, empowering women to build rainwater harvest tanks that benefit their families, communities, and the local biodiversity.

The struggle for water

Born in the suburbs of Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, Mukabizimungu spent most of her early life in and around the city. It wasn’t until she and her husband moved to the rural area of Gahunga that she understood the struggles of life in the countryside.

Women spend hours a day collecting water from a lake five miles away, and many children miss school participating in the chore. Furthermore, the local population of endangered mountain gorillas is also affected as many people go into the protected areas of the nearby Volcanoes National Park to find a water source.

A better future

When an opportunity arose to manage a new community project, Mukabizimungu was the first to respond among a group of men. This Daughter volunteered to help form a cooperative to manage the work of building new water tanks.

Creating Imbreheza Gahunga, Mukabizimungu put women at the forefront of the cooperative in leadership and building positions. Imbereheza means “better future,” and the collective aims to improve lives.

Empowering women

Partnering with Wild Earth Allies, Imbreheza Gahunga builds household rainwater harvest tanks throughout the foothills of Volcanoes National Park, delivering value for women, their families, and wildlife. The project has created 286 water tanks, providing daily water to 2,101 people.

The project has also helped women participants generate income and learn valuable construction skills by building the tanks themselves. For Mukabizimungu, the cooperative is her “second family.”

Protecting gorillas

In addition to helping local women and children, Imbreheza Gahunga protects the surrounding biodiversity, particularly endangered mountain gorillas. Volcanoes National Park covers 160 square kilometers (62 sq mi) of pristine rainforest and is where many in the community have gone to search for freshwater.

By creating rainwater harvest tanks for the locals near their homes, there is no longer a need to go into the park and disturb the ecosystem. Without human interference, the mountain gorilla population can freely roam the area.

How you can help

Daughters for Earth is proud to support and fund women-led climate solutions worldwide.

One of these projects is the Imbereheza Gahunga cooperative, protecting gorillas through women-led community water solutions.

Contributions will help train new cooperative members, completing 35 new water tanks that will benefit 300 people. The project will reduce the number of school children missing school to collect water, increase sustainable agriculture and local enterprises, and help preserve mountain gorillas by decreasing the human activity in Volcanoes National Park.

Learn more about this project