Category Page: Sewing Workshop

Nzigire Translated: What Does She Want?

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“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!

 

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Celebrating Interdependence: Starting a Sewing Co-Op in Congo

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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!

 

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Celebrating 7 Years: Your Impact in Congo Through Action Kivu

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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!

Take Courage: Life Lessons from the Girls and Women of Congo

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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!

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Now You’re Speaking My Language: Connecting in Congo

Action Kivu’s Executive Director Rebecca Snavely recently returned from visiting Congo and all the programs our partners support. She writes here about the joy of finding shared understanding despite language barriers.)

I’d spent a half hour repeating the few words I knew in Swahili and Mashi, the local dialect: “Jambo!” to greet the girls and women in Action Kivu’s Sewing Workshop, and “Coco!” to thank them for allowing me to wander around their space, my face half hidden behind a camera, leaning in to take their photos.

They started to tease me, repeating Jambo! Coco! and laughing. I made a mental note to learn a few phrases in Swahili before my next trip to Congo. Koubde, a slight, older man who teaches embroidery and also repairs the pedal-powered sewing machines tinkered with one machine, tried to explain in French what he was doing. The words mechanic and machinist sound almost the same in English and French, and both our eyes lit up at finally understanding each other. The whole room broke out in joyful laughter.

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“Now you’re speaking my language” generally refers to being on the same page, having similar tastes in politics or movies. It reflects back on how it feels to understand someone, and more so, to be understood.

Interviewing the girls in Action Kivu’s Sewing Workshop, many of them had felt illiterate on their first day. They didn’t know anyone, and they didn’t speak the language of sewing – they didn’t know how to operate the pedal to make the machine run, or how to thread the needle, and they were afraid they would not be able to learn. Many of them had no classroom experience with a teacher: denied an education because of their gender and poverty, they were unaccustomed to the sewing trainer’s commanding tone.

Weeks passed, and the girls were all speaking the same language. It sounded like scissors slicing through fabric, needles piercing their path through the brightly colored cloth, laughter at stories shared over the rhythmic sound of their feet pressing the pedals. Stories that gave each girl the glimpse that they were not alone. Each story was unique, based on the life of each girl or woman, but the same themes ran through all. Denied an education because of extreme poverty. Raped and impregnated. Abandoned with a baby. Unsure how to obtain the good life – that of  being able to feed oneself and your child, and send them to school to stop this cycle. Speaking the same language, they were understood, and realized they were not alone.

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