In ABFEK,Action Kivu,Emma O'Brien,Equal Rights | Women's Rights,fundraiser,Mumosho Women's Center,Sewing Workshop

Action Kivu Intern Shatreen on the Joys and Needs of Working with ABFEK

We were thrilled when Shatreen contacted us, asking if she could volunteer as an intern in eastern Congo. Her impressive résumé, filled with speaking not only fluent French but also Swahili, work in Liberia and a background in reproductive health, made her appear  a shoo-in. Meeting her via Skype, and speaking to her references, we were reassured she would be a great help to Amani’s work in Congo.  Her report after her summer in Bukavu and Mumosho was encouraging, as she, too, witnessed firsthand Amani’s compassion, passion, intelligence, and trust amongst the women and families of the community he serves.  But she also noted that the lack of money often stops important work from being completed.

As we work to raise the money to fully fund the ongoing programs that are changing women’s lives, we ask you to read on, in Shatreen’s own words, of her experience in Congo.

“From June to August 2013, I had the pleasure of serving as an intern with ABFEK and Amani Matabaro, in the South Kivu province, primarily in the cities of Bukavu and Mumosho. I had reached out to Action Kivu earlier in the year because I had been interested in conducting thesis research in Eastern Congo, and was interested in the fact that Action Kivu had paired itself with ABFEK, a Congolese-run organization focused on community-building. I was attracted to ABFEK because of the fact that it was run by Amani, a native of Mumosho, who was focusing on teaching marketable skills to women, while also securing funding for children’s education. The multi-pronged approach seemed to be very in tune with community needs, and Amani’s strong connections to the community, as well as his belief in empowering women, seemed to be a very powerful approach to NGO work.

Amani with the women of the shared farm, during seed distribution.

…”When we began our work, due to our limited budget, we were only able to travel to Mumosho a few times per week, and sometimes, even once a week. This appeared to one of the major obstacles that I saw.  It would often be costly for Amani to arrange transport to travel to Mumosho, especially as it was the dry season, when driving meant precarious conditions with lots of dust. It seems that if Amani were able to obtain a car, especially an all-wheel drive vehicle, this would greatly speed up ABFEK projects, since he or other staff members would be able to check in more regularly.

“Despite this hurdle, we were still able to carry out the project we planned. Because of my background in reproductive health, and my interest in conducting thesis research, we agreed to conduct interviews with 75 local women on their knowledge of family planning, and access and barriers to family planning. We noted that an overwhelming amount of women did not even know what family planning was, despite the fact that many of them expressed dissatisfaction with having had large numbers of women. Most women had between 6 to 8 children, with an extreme of one woman having had 15 children. Throughout the interviews, the women asked for some sort of lesson on what family planning was. I worked with Amani, and Annie, an ABFEK staff member, to plan presentations for men and women on explanations of family planning. The interest in these presentations, especially among the women, was staggering. We planned for roughly 50 women to attend the lesson, but about 125 women showed up, with standing room only. The women were especially interested in finding out how and where to access family planning.

“…My work with ABFEK was incredibly rewarding, and the positives far outweighed the negatives. Amani was a passionate, dedicated leader within his community, and the follow-through and communication on the project was incredible. We would regularly schedule meetings to discuss project planning, and within a few days, we had completed tasks and assessed how we were doing. As an intern, I consistently felt welcomed into every place I was with Amani, and I was respected and treated like a sister. I also never had any concerns about safety, despite the fact that there was some turmoil in the north. In terms of weaknesses, it appears that money and staffing is the main issue with ABFEK. Many of the people who worked for ABFEK, such as Annie, worked for practically nothing, simply because they were so passionate about improving the community. However, they still had families to feed and children to send to school, and it appeared that many of them were struggling to make ends meet. Money was the main obstacle for us, in terms of limiting our travel to Mumosho, and also limiting how broad the project could be.

“Throughout my time in Congo, and afterward, I have nothing but praise for Amani and ABFEK. If another student were interested in interning with ABFEK, I would wholeheartedly recommend to them to work with the organization. It was an incredible experience, and I fully plan on staying involved with ABFEK and Action Kivu in the future. My only regret was that I couldn’t have stayed longer in Congo to work with ABFEK. It was an absolute joy and honor to have been able to intern with Amani and his organization.”

We have so many needs, from paying the literacy teachers and sewing trainers good wages, to buying sewing kits for the 63 women who have learned a valuable, marketable skill through our workshops: $12,285 dollars to purchase the 63 kits: sewing machines, fabrics, thread, scissors, and more, to enable the women to start their own business and earn money to feed and send their kids to school, helping to break the cycle of poverty that lack of education creates.

If you can give today, or on a monthly basis, every dollar makes a difference, and, minus nominal banking fees, goes directly to the work on the ground in Congo.

Read more about the way these programs are changing the lives of the women there, and shaping the future of Congo!

We depend on your partnership, and couldn’t do this work without you!  Thank you, from us, and from the women who share their stories with us, ask us to thank you, and ask you to share them with others, so that their lives and voices are heard around the world.

(Photos by Emma O’Brien)

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