Brigitte’s face lights up when she talks about her future as a lawyer: “At school, my classmates are already calling me lawyer for standing up for their rights. I often like to defend my colleagues who are innocent and sometimes punished for no reason.”
With financial support to pursue law school, 18-year-old Brigitte plans to take that spirit of justice out of the classroom, and into the rest of Congo, and the world. “I want to attend the school of law so that I become able to defend the rights of women and children around the world, in Africa in general and in DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) in particular. This has been my dream for several years, since I joined the Teen Mothers and Educational Assistance programs four years ago. I came with a heart full of disappointment and sadness. I felt worthless, but today I am worthy and want to become a lawyer.”
Four years ago, Brigitte was abandoned by her family, in accordance with a cultural norm that blames the survivors of rape for their crime. Forced to quit school with a baby to care for, she had little hope for her future. After Action Kivu’s partner ABFEC welcomed her and her child into the Teen Mother’s program, providing a home and vocational training, she quickly found her footing.
We don’t stop at education and equality training for just our participants, but work to educate the whole community on the rights of women and kids, and reconciliation with families who grasp that understanding. Brigitte’s family was one who learned that rape is not the victim’s fault, and with support and forgiveness, reunited with Brigitte and her baby. By that time, Brigitte had already requested to return to school, and stayed in Mumosho, while her mother, now Brigitte’s biggest supporter, raises the little girl, so Brigitte was able to focus on her studies, and finish secondary school in June of 2017.
“My mom is so happy, proud of me for continuing my studies because my family believes that it may lead to a bright future, which I know will happen. I want to continue my education to create a better future where I become able to take care of myself, my child, my community, and my country by giving back,” Brigitte says.
“I am inspired to become a lawyer to defend the rights of children who are not respected and who are being violated every day.”
Brigitte’s memories inform her drive to work for equality and justice, from how she found hope to come out of a dark place, to a joyful memory from elementary school.
“The story of the past that I remember is the day that I lost hope to live, the only thing I wanted at that time was to end my life, after being pregnant, abandoned by everyone, even my beloved ones. I had to stop going to school, I was feeling it should not have happened, and questioned why it happened to me. My favorite memory of a great experience was being in school, in elementary school I got 99%, and my headmaster paid for my school fees for 6 months. I was very happy and respected.
“Returning to school changed my life, because I have a new hope for a better life in the future, and my parents are proud of me now and proud of the program which changed my life. I am not ignored by people in our community, they look at me differently now, they have respect for me. My life is no longer miserable like before, I see a bright future based on a new hope. Before my life was very hard, destroyed and miserable. I spent my time at home disappointed, doing nothing alone with my child. But now life is becoming easy,” Brigitte says. After graduating secondary school in June, she’s still learning: “Even now I’m in training, and helping nurse Janine with education about HIV/AIDS,” she says.
“10 years from now, I will have a job as a lawyer and be independent, defending people because I will have that power thanks to my studies.
“I say thank you so much to all the supporters of the programs. I would like to say that I wish to study law, travel around the world and exchange experience with other experienced lawyers in other countries and help Congo build a strong country reinforced with law.”
We believe Brigitte’s vision for her bright future, and are looking for people to partner with her in it. $7,000 USD pays for one year of her university education, including books, room, and board.
“What I want to tell other girls – in Congo and around the world – is to never lose hope, and to work hard. They should not lose self-confidence, which was what happened to me. And that being a girl or woman does not mean someone is inferior to men, no, not at all.”