Meeting Justine today, it might be hard to tell that she felt scared on her first day at Action Kivu’s Sewing Workshop, not knowing what to expect, how to operate a foot-pedal sewing machine. Today she is confident, talking about her plans to start her own business, how she became the matriarch of her family when her mother spent six months in the hospital for a hip problem and her father could not find work.
Justine’s parents decided that each of their children should complete elementary school, to be able to read and write, so Justine, now 22, finished 6th grade, but was unable to begin secondary school, in order for her younger siblings to get a basic education. Enrolling in the Sewing Workshop and already earning money from clients in her village, Justine now helps pay the school fees for her siblings. “People ask me to make something, and I bring it here,” she says, gesturing to the Mumosho Women’s Center, “and my colleagues, my fellow students, help me.”
“I’ve seen how working in community makes a difference,” Justine says. “Learning sewing skills, I’ve become part of a family. I know how to sew now, but I’m still learning. We work together on orders, learn from each other. That’s community for me.”
“I like the word,” Justine replied when asked what the word equality means for her. “It means no discrimination. I still feel like men are getting many more chances, and that’s not equality. When I come here, I feel safe, and equal.”
When asked about sharing what she’s learning about women’s rights and equality, Justine’s face lights up. “I always share what I’m learning about equality with the people in my village,” she says. “And when I get a sewing machine at graduation, I have a plan. My head is full of skills now. I already help my family, I help buy food and medicine. My mom spent six months in the hospital with a hip problem, and my father has no job, so I took over.
“I have to do it, but I am not afraid. I feel like when I am successful, I can lift up the entire of Congo in my hands.”
In addition to learning the traditional curriculum skills, Justine has joined the alumni group learning to make men’s fashion as well. “I want to be able to do it all!” she says.
Thinking about her community, and Congo, “the need is huge. There are many other young girls who could not attend school, who need a program like this. Wherever I go, I am not afraid. I can work, I am empowered.”
“I want to continue to thank and pray for the people who support this program, it is changing lives.”
Thanks to your support, girls and women like Justine are discovering the power that they hold, and teaching others. Read more about the alumni and current students here, and please consider a donation today to invest in this life-changing work!