“We write history with our feet and with our presence and our collective voice and vision.”
~Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark
Walking the dusty dirt roads of eastern Congo to run her small business as a trader of local beer and the maize to make it, Claudine’s feet are on the ground, writing her chapter in the history of the women of Congo. There is great dignity in presence, in showing up daily for her work.
Claudine is still amazed at how much her life has changed in such a short amount of time after she received a microloan from the Power in Unity group, a program that began with donations from Action Kivu supporters and has grown into a sustainable economic system of investment, where each member pays forward their loan in small monthly installments, giving back part of their profits to create another loan for a new entrepreneur.
“The way you see me here, I don’t know where to begin telling you about my life,” Claudine tells us. “But before I talk about my life, I first want to say thank you very much to Action Kivu / ABBEC. I consider them like my parents because they have done a great thing in my life. It gave sense to my life.”
Married, and the mother of seven children (three girls and four boys), Claudine had first tried to run a business on her own, borrowing 10 dollars from a friend here, 20 dollars from a neighbor there. But it was never enough; she couldn’t pay back her loans and also feed, clothe, and pay the fees to send her kids to school.
“Since I got the loan,” Claudine reports, “five of my children are studying and we eat one meal a day.” One meal a day is not sufficient, “but at least we know that there will be a meal every evening,” Claudine says. “I can also save a little money. I also got a goat from Action Kivu / ABFEC. It helps me with fertilizer for my soil and I have hope that I will gain many other things from it.”
Claudine adds her voice and vision to the collective when she meets with the other women in the Power in Unity group twice a month. They voted in a president and a committee of eight women who oversee the meetings and the finances. The women pool their resources and have created a sustainable system in which their profits make it possible to include new members, while also depositing into a social fund to help members who need money for medicine, or marriage, or who are too sick to work, or are grieving the loss of a loved one.
The community the women have created has never been seen before in Mumosho, but that is the underlying meaning of hope: it fertilizes and tills the ground for the foundation of a new reality, allowing hope’s adherents to write their new history.
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