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Action Kivu Update: These things matter

There’s been a flurry of media attention surrounding the Democratic Republic of the Congo this past week, with newly released statistics regarding the number of rapes in 2006 / 2007.  “A study released this week in a U.S. medical journal concludes that more than 400,000 women are being raped a year, with between 17 percent to 40 percent of women in the east reporting sexual assault during their lifetime,” writes Jason Stearns.

Reading all the statistics, old and new, can be overwhelming, which is why we’re excited to share the new projects, growth and personal stories that we’re hearing from Amani this year. Via ABFEK, partnered with Action Kivu, Amani has been working tirelessly, with an abundance of passionate energy, to serve the women and children who are victims of the ongoing conflict.

Here’s what your donations are doing in eastern Congo:

  • The Sewing Collectives

From Amani: “The sewing project is growing since the time ABFEK got new sewing equipment from Action Kivu, USA. New women participants coming from here and there want to get registered and become part of the project. Given this, a graduation event is prepared for June 2011, where about 15 women are to graduate from the program and start their own business based on the skills they got from ABFEK sewing collectives. To make sure the graduation ceremony is a success and the impact is sustainable at the community level, ABFEK needs to provide the women graduating sewing kits for them to start their own workshop in their respective villages and streets.”

  • Education Assistance

Amani: “This school year, 2010-2011, thanks to the support of Action Kivu USA, ABFEK has been able to provide support to 100 school children by helping them get re-enrolled in school. All of these school children are so happy to be attending classes with no fear of being expelled for lack of school fees. This has positively impacted the results of these school children in school as stated by the Musisi elementary school principal:

“‘The children ABFEK is sponsoring are now doing better in school if we compare their results when they were getting expelled for lack of school fees and today, time when they are calmly and peacefully attending all the classes, most of them are very intelligent kids but they are only unlucky to be orphans and poor. In my opinion, ABFEK could take all the kids if possible. May God bless whoever is helping ABFEK implement this incredible work and this new generation has to take advantage of it.’

“The challenge is still big since there’s a great number of children who cannot go to school for lack of school fees, school kits, food and medical care ….many families in the South Kivu province are unable to meet the basic needs of the household and this causes lots of damages, mostly on the lives of children.”

Amani shares the story of a 10-year-old boy, whose big smile belies his frustration and sadness that his parents are unable to send him to school:

“Look at me, I am very dirty but if I were in school I’d be wearing clean cloths but as my parents are so poor, they cannot afford sending me to school, we even difficultly get food to eat. I do not hope for anything in the future as I am not in school but I wish I were in school like other children like me. I am not happy to have given up on school when I was in grade 2.”

“There are families with a great number of children but ABFEK is financially limited and hence unable to pay for every single child.” ~Amani

I Am Over
A world that could allow, has allowed, continues to allow 400 thousand women, 23,000 women, or one woman to be raped anywhere, anytime of any day in the Congo.
The women of Congo are over it too. When I was there last month they told me they were going to begin a story strike and stop telling about their rapes. They want peace. They are not entertainment. Their suffering is not for consumption. …

I Am Over It.
No more studies of raped women
No more statistics
No more breaking news that is 14 years old
No more pretending you didn’t know
Pass the Obama law
Get Rwanda and Uganda and Burundi and Angola out of Congo
With diplomatic pressure
Train women soldiers and police officers
Support local Congolese women’s groups on the ground –
Not with directions and agendas but with money
Make noise
Let It Be Over.

~From OVER, by Eve Ensler, Huffington Post

Make noise, make change – support Amani’s work today. Every. Dollar. Counts. $4, the price of a latte, will send a child to school for a month. We pass on to you the overwhelming gratitude that Amani, his family, the kids he sends to school and the women he helps educate feel for your support from so far away. In the face of the overwhelming statistics, these things matter.

Poems and a Play: International Women’s Day in Congo 2011

In honor of International Women’s Day, the women and girls of ABFEK / Action Kivu wrote and performed these poems and a play for all to hear:Poem composed and read for Internal Women's Day 2011

RAPE 
Rape!  Where did you come from? 
Who gave you a name?  
Who brought you to my home country?
Those who use you have taken my sister like a cow to slaughter.
They have taken my friends to unknown countries, where are they?
Rape! Why can’t you answer me?  Do you hear me?
They have taken my mom in front of me! You have no mercy.
Rape! You have damaged our bodies.
Rape! Because of you, my family and my community have rejected me
Rape! Because of you, my husband has run away
Remember what you did to me mercilessly in front of my beloved ones.
Rape! Because of you, love on me has changed into hatred.
Rape! You have taken my smile, my joy far away from me. BRING THEM BACK.
Rape! You have traded my happiness to bitterness.
Today, I will ask the whole world to help me and bury you
They will help me erase your name and what you’ve caused against my community.
Rape! My family, my community, my country, the world and myself, we all hate you.
  ~ Author’s name withheld for privacy and security reasons
Violence has  no Mercy & Excuse
Violence!
Why do you not forgive?
Why do you not master yourself?  
Why do you not have reservations?
Why do you only do evil against evil?
You sow terror wherever you go.
You fear no one
You spare no one
You do not negotiate
But you treat with force
And everyone complains about you
For you are the enemy of peace.
La Violence est sans Pardon
Violence!
Pourquoi tu ne pardonnes pas?
Pourquoi tu ne te maitrises pas ?
Pourquoi tu ne te réserves pas ?
Pourquoi tu rends le mal contre
 le mal ?
Tu sèmes la terreur partout où tu passes.
Tu ne crains personne
Tu n’épargne personne
Tu ne négocies pas
Mais tu traites avec la force
Et tout le monde se lamente de toi
Car tu es l’ennemie de la paix. ~Author’s name withheld for privacy and security reasons

IWD 2011 - APSED women and girls
ABFEK also performed a play to highlight the plight of women’s lives without equal rights and understanding. Using humor and pathos to educate and inform, the play covered a range of issues facing these women, girls and men in their community on a daily basis.Using hyperbole to show the disparity of home life and housework, the play asked the question, do men think women have a thousand hands? They must, if they don’t offer to help as she goes to collect firewood, fetch water, cook food, mop the dirty floor, take care of the kids, go to market for trade and when she comes back she gives the earnings to the “king” husband.The play addressed the lack of basic, equal rights in marriages where men can decide at any time to reject their wives for no reason, can divorce their wives simply because they never give birth to baby boys. Men who say women have no right to inheritance. Who make decisions about everything in family life, able to sell the property of the family without asking the opinion of the wife. An opinion that doesn’t count in bed either, for men who decide when to have sex, regardless of how the women feel. Men who decide what types of food a woman is allowed to eat. Families who cannot afford to send all their children to school and discriminate against girls for being born a girl, and choose to educate a boy, even when he is not as good a student as their girl.We’re so thankful for the women using poetry, plays and songs to change their lives, and the men who are awake and aware and are fighting alongside them for equal rights! Your support helps send girls to school alongside their brothers, teaches women a trade to support themselves and their families, and reminds us all that we stand together, and what affects one of us affects us all.

International Women’s Day

IWD 2011 - ABFEK women


In a country that has been deemed one of the worst places to be a woman, girls, women and men walked together, proudly bearing banners and marching to the beat of drums to celebrate International Women’s Day.   “Over 2000 women joined forces in Mumosho. It was wonderful,” wrote Amani, Action Kivu’s/ABFEK’s leader, who has been working with the communities in Kivu and Mumosho in preparation and anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the day. He shared his excitement that local authorities, leaders, and police came to witness the performance of plays and poems that denounced gender based violence.  To engage the men in the fight, they catered their messages in sports speak and sang songs to invite them to jointly end violence on a larger scale.

We’ll share more of the poems, plays and video as we receive them from Amani.  We’re thankful for your support of these strong women, giving voice to their lives, shaping and changing their future.

IWD 2011 ABFEK 2 womenIWD 2011 - APSED women and girlsIWD 2011 - drummers


Running Marathons for Action Kivu

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Kevin Sites and his finacée Anita Paul are running the Los Angeles Marathon in March, and they’re doing it all in the name of Action Kivu! Each of them is aiming to raise $5000 by March 20th, the day they hit the pavement. But they’re not only competing on the race course, they’re racing to $5000! Who will reach their goal first?

Visit their fundraising page and pick a side – who will you help over the finish line first?

If you’d like to run a road race in order to raise awareness and funds for Action Kivu please contact us. We’d love to partner with you and help you achieve your goal!

Christmas in Mumosho

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Who knew that Santa was a relatively unknown Congolese man with a giant heart?   After Amani heard from the kids ABFEK sends to school that they were too poor to celebrate Christmas or the New Year, he organized a day for the children in Mumosho. 

This year was especially hard for families, as the lack of rain caused a food shortage, denying families the beans they usually survive on this time of year.  As one of the parents on the committee helping to gather and organize the children relayed, “There has been lack of rain. Our beans are not ripe, how do you want us to celebrate Christmas and the New Year? This is the first time in our history, we used to celebrate Christmas by boiling beans and offer some in our churches as symbol of thanking God to have kept us strong up to the end of the year. Is it this time a punishment by God …? We are all hungry.”

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Your financial support helped ease that hunger and add the joy of Christmas for 298 children.  Amani and his helpers passed out packages filled with biscuits, sweets and, as a special gift, toys for 12 of the children who volunteered to be a part of the day by sharing their stories of Christmas and the New Year.  The kids call Amani “Papa Amani,” so in addition to his own six kids, he is the father to 100s.  “These kids are our own!” Amani claims with joy.

Packages-DSC00757

The start of a new year offers a time for great hopes and dreams — the symbolic end of one year allows us to learn from our mistakes, to celebrate the good, to mourn the losses, and to move forward.  From all of us at Action Kivu, we want to thank you for your financial, emotional and practical support this year.
 
Amani writes, “May 2011 bring Joy and Peace to each of us, wherever we may be, that we may each be a source of happiness and peace in our troubled but extraordinary world.”