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!
It’s hard to tell who is more excited about the first day of school this year: the kids or Papa Amani, as the students in Congo call our partner in Congo. Amani lights up when he talks about sending children to school, giving them hope for a better future and the means to pursue their goals and dreams. He knows that educating children, and specifically sending girls to school, often denied education simply because of their gender, is one of the best ways to break the cycle of extreme poverty furthered by decades of war in this corner of Congo. Thanks to a generous grant from Jewish World Watch, many of the children we serve in eastern Congo, kids who are orphans or whose families are unable to afford school fees and supplies, are back in the classroom this week!
Amani often echoes Nelson Mandela’s words: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
We’re thrilled to post our own Back to School photos. Meet Cibalonza, who is six years old and so excited to begin her education, entering grade 1 in elementary school this year. She’s surrounded by the school kits each child receives: a school bag, a uniform (many sewn by the students and graduates of Action Kivu’s Sewing Workshop), copy books, a pencil, two pens, a mathematical box, and a ruler.
We’re happy to share an update on Ntaboba. When he was six years old, Ntaboba, whose name means “no fear,” stepped on a live grenade in the jungle near his home in eastern Congo, mangling and twisting his leg, forcing him to walk with a metal pole for support, which further twisted his spine. Because of the injury, he often missed classes and fell behind in his education when he could not navigate the five kilometers to his school.
Margaret Johnson and Betty Merner, two Americans visiting Congo with their friend Dr. Victoria Bentley of Empower Congo Women, met Ntaboba in Mumosho. They quickly connected to Ntaboba’s soft spirit and strong character, and were determined to do what they could to help him. Thanks to the emotional and financial support of these women and school kids they work with in Rhode Island, in 2012, Ntaboba received a surgery on his leg from Heal Africa in Goma, a hospital renowned as one of only three referral hospitals in the DR Congo. He continues to walk freely with “no fear,” stepping into grade 2 in secondary school.
Read more about our programs, and how your partnership and donations support life-changing work in Congo, here!
Meet Mamy in a video from our Sewing Graduation Day, 2015
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
“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” ~ Frederick Douglass
“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, in some areas.”
Meet Marhonyi, one of Action Kivu’s three literacy teachers at the Mumosho Women’s center. In spite of the statistics, Marhonyi was able to attend school, and graduated secondary school with her certificate in Pedagogy, which focuses on teaching. She now passes along that knowledge to other women and girls who, because of their gender, were not sent to school.
|M’Bidundu, February 2014|
One of her students is M’Bidundu, who at 17 had never been given the chance at an education. She is very proud being part of the program and today can read and write a few words as a result of the literacy program. ”This program gives me a new hope for the future in, my life. I feel like I was blind but now I can see,” she says.
|Marhonyi leads literacy class, Mumosho, February 2014|
Your donations make these programs possible. Please consider a donation and help us fund these important programs, and partner with the women in eastern Congo, studying and working to create change in their community and country!
We’re excited to share the women’s stories and progress with you here, and to ask you to partner with them. If you have words of encouragement, please share them here in the comments, or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will forward them to Amani, to share with the students! If you’d like to include a photo of yourself, please do, and Amani will post with your note, reminding the women and children that they are not alone.
Every now and then one wonders, how does Amani, our partner, peacemaker, and community builder in Congo, keep going? Where does he get his strength and drive to create and manage community programs for women to access a place of empowerment and equality? And why? In a place where women are often less than second-class citizens, where they have no land rights, and are often discarded in divorce if they don’t produce a male heir, how did a man like Amani decide women are the future of Congo?
Speaking to Amani on Skype recently, he shared his own recent realization of why this work is so close to his heart.
Amani has spent years investing in his childhood community of Mumosho, starting sewing workshops, education assistance programs for kids who can’t afford school, building a Peace Market for the safe and local sales of products and food. “I’m feeling a big difference,” he said, “when I meet children on the street, moms, the elderly. … I believe in the power of women, especially the women of Congo. My mom was left a widow after my dad died (Amani’s father was killed in the conflict in 1996). She was illiterate, but she raised us, she made every effort so that we would have the space for education.
“I shared my experience, my story, with the women [I work with],” Amani told me. “I see we are doing what we are doing because I trust the power of women. I trust what I learned from my mom, when she showed us that she believed, ‘My children are going to remain my foundation.’”
Amani’s belief in the power of women and education is what fuels his work in eastern Congo, and what we at Action Kivu work to support. His mother, who inspired this work, was also killed in the conflict, in 1998. In honor of all she taught him through her strength and love, he has created a community in Congo where women are learning entrepreneurial skills like sewing, baking, basket-making, and literacy training.
We learned last week that Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 rebels have declared a ceasefire after a 20-month rebellion in North Kivu province to allow peace talks with the government to advance. It’s a hopeful step. But only yesterday we read that the fighting rages on, endangering more innocent civilians. At least 800,000 people have been left homeless since the conflict started.
NOW is the time to empower women with a voice for peace. Women in Mumosho stop Amani on the street, telling him they’ve observed their neighbors who are taking the literacy classes at the Mumosho Women’s Center. That they see women able to read and write their own names for the first time, enabling them to vote in their country’s elections. These women want that right, too. When they learn to read and write, they’ll be able to teach their children the value of literacy. And their children will learn, as Amani learned, that their mothers and aunties are strong, and won’t be stopped in their work for a better future for their children.
Meet Amani via video: The Enough Project’s “I Am Congo” Series.
Donate today and partner with the women currently in classes, and help us expand our programs to include more women!