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!
We’re excited to celebrate seven years with you, our Action Kivu family! We started with a small sewing workshop and education assistance program in eastern Congo that with YOUR partnership, has grown to a community center that houses the Sewing Workshop, Literacy Classes, Bread Baking, Basket Weaving, and Soap Making courses, and over 3000 children have been sent to school. Nearby is our shared farm where over 80 women farm their own plots of land. We have graduated 236 women with the tools and education to start their own businesses, and have 48 students in the Class of 2017 eager to receive a sewing machine to start their new lives.
Your investment in the future of these women is changing lives, and an investment in women is an investment in the future generation, and a more just world. Read more and donate today at http://www.actionkivu.org/action/
What is the impact of your giving? Read stories from our alumni to learn how their lives have changed:
And meet the current Class of 2017, eager to start their co-ops and businesses!
Hear how this training has changed lives, from the women of the Sewing Workshop, Class of 2015!
Farming my own plot of land is so sweet, not only to sell vegetables for income, but to eat them at times they’re not normally for sale. ~Jeannette
Jeannette is one of over 80 women in eastern Congo who now have a plot of land to grow fruits and vegetables, thanks to your support of Action Kivu!
Our agronomist Mukengere is a student at the university in Bukavu, and teaches the women the organic and sustainable techniques he is learning in his class on agriculture and climate change. They now use local grasses to combat insects, and each farmer has her own compost heap at home, as well as the shared compost for the farm.
Read more stories of hope and transformation:
Join the movement and invest in this world-transforming work today!
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!