12 years old, Bukuze is looking forward to her last year in elementary school this fall before she starts high school in 2018. She loves learning French, and doesn’t mind the 45 minute walk to school from where she lives with her uncle’s family, because she is determined to be a teacher.
Bukuze knows about the U.S. because of the good people here who are investing in her education, and wants the people of the U.S. and the world to know that Congo needs peace, not war.
Students line up to have their finger pricked, their blood drawn, and their HIV test taken to a clinic. Nurse Jeanine is matter of fact as she has the high school students role-play the situations that might lead to contracting HIV/AIDS, how to prevent its spread, and what it means to live with the disease. Her notebook and pamphlets use illustrations to reach those who cannot read or write.
Jeanine has seen a lot of changes in the two years of Action Kivu’s All Together Against HIV/AIDS education and testing campaign. “At the beginning, people were afraid to be tested. Now, with education, people show up and ask to be tested,” she says. The campaign is in its second year, and even churches announce meetings for testing and education. But religion still proves a problem, as the church in Congo does not condone the use of condoms, and yet will excommunicate a pregnant woman who has no husband. Amani, Action Kivu’s founding director, speaks up: The answer is to raise awareness, to educate the church leaders as well.
All Together Against HIV/AIDS educates the youth in this corner of eastern Congo, who then take their knowledge back to their schools, their families, their churches, to be the educators. “The work makes me happy!” Nurse Jeanine says as she pricks the finger of another student. “To protect one person protects many people.”
In just two years, we’ve tested over 1000 students and community members. One box of 100 test determiners costs $40, one box of lancets costs $40. The challenge is safe transportation to rural areas (Action Kivu does not have a 4×4) and the need is great. To invest in this life-saving work, donate today!
Scroll down through the photos to see the winces, grimaces, and grins of a day of testing and education.
“I am the last born child,” Nzigire says. She is shy, and looks at her hands while her words are translated into English. She is only 17, still a young girl, and warms up quickly, gaining confidence as she answers questions about her life. “My mother wanted another girl,” she says, explaining her name, “so she named me ‘I want.’ Nzigire.”
At 17, Nzigire has only an elementary school education. Her family unable to afford to send her to secondary school, she was excited to join Action Kivu’s Sewing Workshop to be able to earn her own income, and begin to plan for her future. The first day was nerve-wracking, she says. “I didn’t know anyone, but it felt so good to learn to work the pedal on the machine. In one week, I was making friends.”
What does Nzigire want? Not only to graduate with a sewing machine to open her own business, but, “I want more people in Congo to lead with the heart of the people she sees through Action Kivu. They have helped so many people.”
To invest in the future of girls and women like Nzigire, click here!
As we celebrate seven years of Action Kivu, of seeing the impact of your commitment to emboldening and educating women and children in Congo, as we witness their lives transform and we see hope finding a home in a brighter, more peace-filled tomorrow, we’re thrilled to share that Ms. Magazine highlighted our work on their blog.
In the midst of news reports like these from The Washington Post and The L.A. Times about the escalating violence and crisis in Congo, in which women and children are the most vulnerable victims of conflict, there has never been a more critical time to invest in the education and entrepreneurial training of women and girls in Congo. As Action Kivu’s Executive Director Rebecca Snavely told Ms. Magazine:
The article you reference reports on unspeakable violence against children and women, and the trauma extends to the innocent men who are also survivors of or witnesses to brutal attacks, unable to save their families from such violence. It is unspeakable, but if we do not speak about it, and against it, it will never change. Local organizations like Action Kivu provide several avenues through which change can occur, mainly through providing the space to be vocal. The meeting spaces and classes embolden girls and women to embrace their power to speak out and cry out for justice against such violence, to learn that rape is not their fault, to come together and speak about their experiences. To call out for leaders to act, and to learn to be the leaders they are looking for. The educational gatherings for men provide opportunities for change, for men to see women as their equals and allies in creating a peaceful world for them and their children to thrive.
This is not to negate how terrifying it is to be in fear of such attacks, and to feel helpless. Writing this in my relatively peaceful home of Los Angeles, I cannot speak properly to what it is to live in this fear and environment. I can only quote what the girls and women said to me when I was there this year—almost every single girl I asked about what Congo needs right now answered “Peace.” Iragi, a Sewing Workshop student in this year’s Class of 2017, dug deeper into that need. “If girls and women are given the chance, given an education, we can change the future of Congo,” Iragi says. “We have to start within ourselves. If there is no love in ourselves and our families, the government, the leaders, will not love, as they are just people, raised up in our homes, our families.”
Read on to learn what inspires us, what is happening now, and what has changed over the past seven years. Then take action, and share the story to amplify the voices and stories of women and girls around the world!
We are grateful for your partnership as we look forward to the next seven years!
We celebrate interdependence this Independence Day in Congo with Marijane, Chanceline, and Martine, who started a sewing co-op after graduating @Action Kivu’s Sewing Workshop in 2015.
Using the machines they received upon graduation thanks to a generous donation from Robin Wright and Karen Fowler’s Pour Les Femmes that year, the three women say that when they work on each order together, they finish faster, allowing them to take more orders per month.
We love to work together, and this is something we learned from the Sewing Workshop program. We are working, we are strong.
Marijane (pictured left) shares what @Action Kivu’s Sewing Workshop means for her life:
Since I graduated, I feel completely different. I have a voice. I pay for my child’s school fees each month.
This year we need your help to graduate the Class of 2017. And we know, from statistics and from the stories of our alumni, that when you invest in women’s education and vocational training, you invest in their children’s future, and the health of the community. Take action: Invest in the future of Congo today!