Global Disability Summit: Ernasto's story

Ernasto, who was born with a disability, is taking part in couples training with CARE

42-year-old Ernasto, from the Musanze District in Rwanda's Northern Province, has been married for 15 years and has three children. 

Ernasto used to be wary of joining community activities, as he feared he would be judged because of his disability. Ernasto's life was turned around when his wife encouraged him to attend CARE's couples training. He found the training to be a welcoming space, where he could speak freely. Ernasto and his wife have also addressed issues they were facing, and they now communicate more freely, and budget as a family.

This is his story in his own words:

I was born like this. My options are limited in terms of work, many times when I think of something I want to do, such as buying a motorcycle and using it for different things, I can’t do that, or joining the police force. I have very limited options in terms of doing things for myself.

I wasn’t comfortable going to the couples training, as I didn’t feel comfortable being around people, as I was worried about how people would be around me. My wife went to the first two sessions alone, as I hesitated.

But my wife went, and she told me - you really need to come, this is something I can’t do alone, we need to go together. Nobody will harm you.

So she encouraged me and I made the decision to go to the next session, and I’ve never looked back.

In terms of accessibility, they gave my transport money and a daily stipend, so it would be easy for me to get to the training. Even when I go to meetings, I’m given priority in terms of a seat.

I hesitated due to more of a personal feeling, that I’m not worthy of being amongst people and being part of different activities. When I took the courage to go for training, and realised life goes on, I became free. 

It was more something in my mind, as nobody else was focusing on my disability. I went to the training, I made friends, I talked and began to accept myself.

How has the training helped?

There was poor communication between me and my wife, there was conflict, my wife accusing me of being unfaithful, just accusations. Once we communicated and talked about issues, that was cleared.

I ceased holding money and keeping it to myself it’s now shared between us, we make decisions together for the family.

We have a small shop where we sell banana juice and a local beer. That’s what we are both doing. We rent a small piece of land from other people, my wife and I have cultivated the land for a year now, and that’s as a result of us pooling our finance so we always have food.

The people who attended the couples training have formed a club. We often meet, to refresh our minds so that we don’t forget what we have learnt.

We have a piece of paper that summarises the session topics.

It acts as a daily reminder, making sure that gender based violence is not an option. It reminds us.

The one key thing is mainly around managing financial resources together as a family.

About the project

Ernasto attended the couples training, which is part of the DfID funded Indashyikirwa project. The project focuses on preventing gender based violence, by working with men and women, as couples and individuals. The training encourages people to reflect on and challenge harmful stereotypes around gender, which can lead to inequality and GBV. The project developed to be more inclusive of people with disabilities, with new measures being introduced, such as outreach workers visiting people with disabilities in their homes.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.