Marie-Goreth, 18, has never been to school. She cannot read or write. She wakes in the morning to walk almost one hour to a field where her family grows rice and sweet potatoes. After returning home from laboring in the fields all day, Marie-Goreth, who has nine brothers, prepares the family's meals lunch and dinner, fetches water, gathers firewood and helps her mother tend to her younger siblings. But none of that slows Marie-Goreth's ambition to improve her life and the lives of those around her.
Once an unruly teenager, she fought with her mother and insulted her peers. Deep inside, Marie-Goreth wanted to change but she felt angry and didn't know what to do. Then, she noticed that her friends who joined a girl's solidarity group called Tugarukiribikorwa, or "Let's work," were well behaved. She decided to tag along with them to a training. The facilitator talked to the girls about being polite and respecting their parents. Marie-Goreth felt like the facilitator was speaking directly to her. Tugarukiribikorwa was the key to a new way of life for Marie-Goreth and she joined right away.
Today, Marie-Goreth is a model of good behavior. But self-actualization is not enough for her. Marie-Goreth also wants to be an Abatangamuco, or "Light givers." Usually Abatangamuco are men who testify, with their wives as witnesses, about their past acts of violence against women as a way to encourage other men in their communities to change their behaviors against women and treat women as equals.
Marie-Goreth saw the changes that the Abatangamuco were making in her community and thought: wouldn't it be good if I could talk about these issues with my friends before we're married?
She never mentioned her intention to her friends – and hadn't worked up the nerve to ask Abantangamuco if she could join – until she heard visitors from CARE were coming to meet with a group in her community. After finishing her work in the field, Marie-Goreth bravely slipped onto a bench in the shade of a mango tree where the group was meeting. Then, she asked the group if she could join them as an Abatangamuco. The group welcomed her, delighted that a young person wanted to reach out to other youth.
And what does her mom think?
"I am proud of my daughter. She's a hard worker and complains about nothing,” she says. “I like that she wants to be an Abatangamuco because she'll be doing good work. I trust she can do it because she uses her intelligence."
She adds, "Marie-Goreth will have a better future because she's on her way up!"