The rainy season in the Sub-Saharan country of Congo makes many of the dirt roads in its eastern corner impassable, and the journey to school almost impossible. The road to an education for girls, in a culture where they are not valued as equal to boys, is fraught with even more barriers, from extreme poverty to early marriage. But Mama Adolphine never gave up hope.
In 2012, a study conducted by UNESCO and UNICEF revealed that 52.7 per cent of the 7.3 million children out of school in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — some 3.8 million children — are girls. Among the obstacles to girls’ education are low family incomes and lack of school infrastructure. And according to A World at School, in some areas of the DRC, “around 70% of children who start primary school will drop out before the end of school. If you’re a girl, the risks of dropping out are even higher – as many as 77% of girls drop out of primary school in some areas of the country. … Early marriage contributes to the low secondary school attendance for girls.”
Aldophine doesn’t need to be reminded of these statistics – she lived them. Her parents did not think it important to spend money on their daughter’s education. “Women did not have any right to go to school,” she says. “But I liked studies so much. I never lost hope that one day I would study.”
Adolphine is 60 and the mother of six. Two of her daughters are married, four of her children are in school, and Adolphine is now a student in Action Kivu’s Literacy Program.
“I am learning how to write and read,” Adolphine reports. “I am very happy because now I can read my bible, I can choose and write the name of the candidate I want when there is an election in my country.”
The Literacy Program is the entry point to all of Action Kivu’s vocational trainings – teaching girls and women to read and write gives them the first tools needed to run their own businesses upon receiving skills training in sewing, bread baking, basket weaving, and the micro-loan project. To support this critical step in the road to equality for women and girls, please consider a monthly donation!
Adolphine is an inspiration: it is never too late to learn!
Read more about Brigitte in the following stories:
To partner with Action Kivu, click here.
“There is peace here. Hear our voices, oh you, the world!”
Celebrate with the girls and women of Action Kivu’s Sewing Workshop Class of 2016! Thanks to donors like you, the sewing community who donates via Alissa Haight Carlton’s fundraiser, and our partners Stand With Congo and Pour Les Femmes, 63 women and girls graduated this year with the skills and sewing machines to start their own businesses.
Check out a sneak peek of the video from the graduation celebration, and stay tuned for more stories from the women!
Chiruza couldn’t keep from asking questions. A young student representing his school in the HIV/AIDS training that day in Mumosho, Congo, he stood up often, clarifying facts, challenging the status quo, making sure he had all the info to return to his classmates fully armed with an education on how to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS.
He was one of the many kids in the training session that day, children and teens who dream of graduating school to become lawyers, politicians, or, like Chiruza, an engineer in industrial electricity. After learning the statistics, that in sub-Saharan Africa, 1.1 million [1.0 million – 1.3 million] people died of AIDS-related causes in 2013, and that Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for almost 70% of the global total of new HIV infections, Chiruza and his new friends in the meeting were angry. Armed with information, they were ready to engage in a battle against the disease, so they and their classmates, their sisters and brothers, could achieve their dreams.
“The proliferation of armed groups, successive wars, and poverty at community levels in connection with the movement of military groups and young people, especially to and from mining sites, along with the lack of mass education on HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases are some of the root causes of why HIV /AIDS is a serious threat that kills people every day, with the potential to spread rampantly through communities without this education,” Amani tells us.
How can we serve our mission, Amani asks, to invest in the women, children, and communities of Congo, if they are dying from a disease we can prevent through education? All Together Against HIV/AIDS is a community-based anti-HIV/AIDS campaign by ABFEC (formerly ABFEK), Action Kivu’s partner in Congo. The program consists of diversified activities centered in the community, with a focus on settings with large populations such as schools, churches, and community-based organizations in eastern DRC. Sub Saharan Africa represents almost 70% of the total new HIV infections in the world, according to UN AIDS.
Action Kivu sends a small stipend to help pay Nurse Jeanine for her work, who headed up the training along with with nurses Safi and Toto, women who volunteered their time and experience of over 10 years of work in local hospitals, with specific education in HIV/AIDS. They came concerned for a community that was unaware of a disease that continues to decimate their country and continent.
“Out of 37 million people estimated to be living with HIV, 19 million do not know their status. In other words, one out of every two people living with HIV does not know that they are HIV-positive – and therefore does not access treatment and care.” (The Global Fund)
Brigitte and Chanceline – ready to educate their peers.
Both Brigitte and Chanceline live at the Mumosho Women’s Center, part of the Teen Mother’s Program that is supported by a grant from Jewish World Watch. Strong young women, they both survived rape, and, left alone to raise the babies resulting from that assault, found a new home and new hope through the community of women at the Center, as well as the opportunity to finish school. Brigitte became a mother before she was 14. Joining our family four years ago, and now back in school, she has one more year of Secondary school, and wants to become a lawyer, to defend and protect the rights of the oppressed, especially women and children. After attending this training, she is also now a strong voice in her school in this campaign against HIV/AIDS.
The participants for the first training were selected by the school principals based on their leadership qualities and ability to pass along what they learned to their classmates. Five secondary schools in the area were represented by two students for each class, as well as two local churches. The school principals unanimously agreed to integrate this program in their weekly school activities, in which the students from the training course will be given space and time to share what they have learned with their peers at school, sessions that will be overseen by Nurse Jeanine.
All Together Against HIV/AIDS is based on BCC methods – Behavior Change & Communication. Jeanine started the day with a questionnaire to learn what the community already knows about HIV/AIDS, including the definition of key terms like HIV/AIDS, PVV (a person living with HIV) and their rights, PTME (mother-to-child HIV transmission protection), ARV (treatment with the use of antiretrovirals), how HIV is transmitted, what the protection methods are. After the training session, Jeanine proctored a follow-up test, to determine that her students were set to return to their schools and churches, to educate others and spread the facts. The most popular community radio station arrived to air the event in support of the initiative: All Together Against HIV/AIDS.
“People who don’t know their status, or who are not able to access treatment and care, are at risk of developing AIDS or of passing the virus on to others – at a huge cost to themselves and to society.
“… Today, with access to lifesaving treatment, an HIV-positive person can expect to have the same lifespan as someone who is HIV-negative.
“One of the cornerstones of this lifesaving treatment is the use of antiretrovirals (ARVs). ARVs are given as a combination of drugs that can reduce the amount of HIV in the body or prevent HIV in people at substantial risk of acquiring the virus. However, ARVs are not a cure for HIV; a person living with HIV who is on treatment will need to take ARVs the rest of their life. ARVs also have another benefit: treatment reduces the chance that an HIV-positive person will pass the virus on to someone else by 97 percent.” (The Global Fund)
Learn the facts from the UN AIDS fact sheet below, and support our work to combat HIV/AIDS in Congo. Action Kivu pays a small stipend to Nurse Jeanine for her work in our community, from family planning to this HIV/AIDS awareness building. If you’d like to support her life-saving work, please consider a monthly donation by clicking here, and mark in PayPal’s note to seller: NURSE.
– Between 2005 and 2013 the number of AIDS-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa fell by 39%.
Treatment coverage is 37% of all people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.
– 67% of men and 57% of women were not receiving ART in sub-Saharan Africa in 2013.
– Three out of four people on ART live in sub Saharan Africa.
– There were 210,000 [180,000 – 250,000] new HIV infections among children in sub-Saharan Africa in 2013.
– Since 2009, there has been a 43% decline in new HIV infections among children in the 21 priority countries of the Global Plan in Africa.
-67% of men and 57% of women had no access to Antiretroviral care in 2013.
As nurses Jeanine and Safi and Toto began the training, one graded the pre-test. 96% of the participants had no knowledge on the topics covered that day: general knowledge of HIV/AIDS, global and DRC HIV-related statistics, modes of transmission, prevention, care, living with and accepting people with HIV (PVV), the clinical symptoms, briefings on different techniques used for voluntary testing, and mother-to-child HIV transmission prevention.
When the students took a similar test after the training session ended, 92% answered all the above, and new questions, correctly. They were very interested and kept the nurses as long as they could with more questions, before leaving with training materials to ensure they will have resources to use for passing on the education to their peers at school.
As a trusted source of education and training in the community, our partner organization ABFEC plays a key role in this education process. Almost all the women who attended the anti-HIV campaign stated that it is not always easy to convince their husbands to undertake a voluntary HIV test. Through your partnership with Action Kivu, you provide the means for ABFEC to be a bridge between the community and local health facilities with capacities to provide antiretroviral medication, in addition to providing expanding education on HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmissible Diseases one day every week, as well as individual and group counseling before voluntary testing.
For those who test positive, the program will provide an orientation, practical ways to avoid transmitting the disease, and be put in immediate contact with one of the two hospitals are able to provide antiretroviral medication in the area: The Nyantende and the Panzi Hospitals, both located at about 15 km from Mumosho.
Nurse Jeanine is committed to tirelessly spread the word, to stop of the spread of this preventable disease. Will you join us? We currently send a stipend of $100 / month for Jeanine’s critical work, and want to pay her $150 more, as well to hire an assistant for her, to help address the community needs, prepare the training sessions, and begin to provide female and male condoms. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, or note NURSE in your PayPal donation.
Thank you for partnering with the people of Congo in this way!
Amani writes: The photo with everyone with two fingers up means we are all ready to go go go go!!!!
A rare dry day in rainy season Congo, some of the girls and women of the Sewing Workshop set up outside the Mumosho Women’s Center, creating more space for their day’s lessons. M’Bagalwa Francine started the sewing training last spring. She pauses, pulling the bright green and fuschia fabric from her Singer machine, and holds up the dress she’s working on today.
“When I make something like this, I make a profit of nine dollars. Being part of this program has dramatically changed my life. I was not lucky to be sent to school because my parents were very poor before they died and I was not a priority. My brother was, but unfortunately he did not also graduate from secondary school for luck of funds. Today I am mending my own life. I am expecting the graduation ceremony to [proceed] and I will start working on my own or join a sewing cooperative with two or three others from my program. Thank you for changing my life.”
Your partnership with Action Kivu’s programs in Congo gives girls and women like M’Bagalwa Francine the tools to mend their lives and craft a better future for themselves and their children. We are raising $15,000 for the Sewing Workshop Class of 2016, to graduate these amazing entrepreneurs this spring with their own Singer sewing machine, fabric, scissors, and thread to launch their small businesses and sewing co-ops, earning income to break the cycle of poverty that threatened to cut short their dreams.
$200 will buy one graduate a sewing kit, purchased there to invest in the local economy. With your investment in these women’s future, they’ll be able to feed, clothe, and send their kids to school, growing a new Congo from the fertile ground of their persistence and hard work. CLICK HERE to donate today, and mark “Class of 2016″ in the note to seller on PayPal to support their graduation!
Watch the Class of 2015 video here to hear, in their own words, how learning a trade and earning income has already changed their lives!
Read more from our programs in Congo on our blog:
Meet Cikwanine, Nadine, & Chanceline – three teen moms who are back in school!
Meet Claudine, and read her story of coming “back to life”
Meet Grandma Mwayuma and see some of the children at play
Meet Amani through the Enough Project’s “I Am Congo” video series
Meet the goats in our animal husbandry program, Your Goat is My Goat
New People, New Actions, New Congo: Christmas Celebration & New Year Resolutions