In Action Kivu,Congo,Creating Community,eastern Congo,Equal Rights | Women's Rights,Literacy,Mumosho,Mumosho Women's Center,Sewing Workshop

Take Courage: Life Lessons from the Girls and Women of Congo

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In eastern Congo, girls and women walk for miles – to find work, to find water, to find buyers for the fruits and vegetables they tended from seed to harvest. Many of these paths are not safe; armed militias patrol the same roads, and risk is a regular part of life. They step into the unknown each day, to forge ahead to meet the needs of their families. Courage is a daily part of life.

Merriam Webster defines courage as mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. The word originated from the Middle English corage, from Anglo-French curage, from quer, coer heart, from the Latin cor.

We often say “take heart,” to rally one to be courageous is to be strong in what they’re doing, to reflect on what drives them to keep going. Don’t give up.

20 year old Bahati was tempted to give up during her first few days at Action Kivu’s Sewing Workshop. She had heard about Action Kivu’s Literacy Program and Sewing Workshop from a girl who had graduated from the vocational training, who told Bahati, “if you are a courageous woman and you go there, you learn, and your life changes.”

Bahati was desperate for change: After her father died, she had only been able to attend school up to the fourth grade. One of nine children, she was a new mother, and the father of her baby girl was gone, offering no support. Bahati felt like a beggar, asking for a bar of soap from her mother, to wash her clothes, to care for her baby. She took the girl’s advice, and beginning with the Literacy Program, continued her education in numeracy and writing, before starting the Sewing Workshop.

Those first few days in the course, Bahati almost quit. She didn’t know anyone in her class. Her legs and ankles hurt from the strange movements as she tried to find the right rhythm to move the foot pedal to power the Singer machine. She recalled the girl who had gone before her, and what she had said about courageous women. “I remembered the word courage,” Bahati recalled six months later, “and I took courage, and continued.”

Take heart. Take courage. Women aren’t taught to take. To “take what is yours” is a phrase often taught to men, and for many women, “take what is yours” has a negative connotation: it has been practiced as a way to deny others what is theirs in the process. In that light it is the product of the scarcity mindset, that there isn’t enough for everyone, so you must take.

It is time to redefine the phrase, and re-frame it in abundance. It is time for women to take what is theirs: equality. To step into the unknown, armed not with violence, but with the knowledge of self-worth. Bahati had been encouraged by another woman who had learned from her experience: that by stepping into the unknown, she learned, and her life changed.

Still a student, Bahati’s life has changed. She is already earning income for herself and her 16-month-old baby. “I didn’t think I was ready to be a seamstress, but people see what I do, and they bring me fabric to make things for them,” she says. “The Sewing Workshop created independence in my life. Before I was begging even for a bar of soap, to wash clothes, to bathe, to wash my child’s clothes. People realize that I am no longer the person they knew.”

Bahati sees a bright future for her daughter. “I plan to send her to school, and teach her everything I know.”

Your donation to Action Kivu is an investment in Bahati and the growing community of girls and women who will learn from her courage, and take heart to find their own. When she graduates this summer with a sewing machine, Bahati plans to start a business repurposing second-hand clothes from the markets of Bukavu, the city 25 kilometers from Mumosho. She’ll take what others toss aside, deconstruct them, sew them into a new style, give them new life.

Be a part of this movement: Give new life and new opportunities today!

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