At 16, Cikwanine just completed grade 2 of secondary school. With four more grades to complete, Cikwanine is excited to start back to school this September. It is common for girls to be a few years behind the normal age for a grade in Congo, where sexism and extreme poverty both play parts in keeping girls out of school. Thanks to the support of Action Kivu partners, that’s not stopping Cikwanine.
Cikwanine wants to be a member of the Parliament, to positively influence the politics of her country.
What is the good life? In Mumosho, Congo, Riziki, a student in Action Kivu’s Sewing Workshop, takes a break from the class to share her story. The front room of the community center is quiet, the sound of the pedaled sewing machines bleeding in from upstairs as the class continues without Riziki. She is 22, and answers questions in Mashi and Swahili, looking at Amani, who translates.
My first day at the Sewing Workshop was a bad day for me, Amani translates Riziki’s words into English, then laughs, and in Mashi, quickly rattles off his question – why was it bad? Riziki replies: “I didn’t know anybody.” She felt alone. One of seven children, she was forced to quit elementary school in 3rd grade because her family couldn’t afford the school fees (approximately seven U.S. dollars each month), and wasn’t used to the strict tone of the sewing teacher. She sounded rude to Riziki’s untrained ear.
Despite a bad first day, she started feeling connected quickly, becoming familiar with her fellow students, learning new skills. Before coming to the Sewing Workshop, she had worked on people’s farms, back-breaking work in Congo that pays around one dollar for a day of labor.
Now, she says, I am gaining confidence. Polepole (slowly) I am becoming a strong woman. She is building her clientele: people are bringing me fabric to make them things.
Riziki leans back into the armchair, relaxing. I had to quit school because of lack of funds, she says. Pursuing an education was a big wish of mine, but it didn’t happen. I wanted to finish school, to live a good life.
What defines the good life? Assuming she will answer as an American might: a house, nice clothes, maybe even a car?
Because I am a girl, she says, a good life is to meet my basic needs: soap, shoes, clothes. When I am a mother, married, it will be to feed myself, feed my family. I don’t want to live like my mother lives. A widow, she works on her own farm, and then goes to work on other people’s farms. My brother travels to mining sites, and sends money back to their family.
How far are we all from the good life? Those of us whose minds have been trained to equate it with things on one end of the spectrum, and those who have yet to know the pride that comes with feeding their kids on a regular basis, of being able to send them to school in hopes that they, too, will have access to the good life.
Learn how your donation to Action Kivu is an investment in creating the good life for girls and women like Riziki, giving them the tools to feed their families, send their children to school, pay for medical care – helping to break the cycle of poverty.
As we celebrate seven years of Action Kivu, of seeing the impact of your commitment to emboldening and educating women and children in Congo, as we witness their lives transform and we see hope finding a home in a brighter, more peace-filled tomorrow, we’re thrilled to share that Ms. Magazine highlighted our work on their blog.
In the midst of news reports like these from The Washington Post and The L.A. Times about the escalating violence and crisis in Congo, in which women and children are the most vulnerable victims of conflict, there has never been a more critical time to invest in the education and entrepreneurial training of women and girls in Congo. As Action Kivu’s Executive Director Rebecca Snavely told Ms. Magazine:
The article you reference reports on unspeakable violence against children and women, and the trauma extends to the innocent men who are also survivors of or witnesses to brutal attacks, unable to save their families from such violence. It is unspeakable, but if we do not speak about it, and against it, it will never change. Local organizations like Action Kivu provide several avenues through which change can occur, mainly through providing the space to be vocal. The meeting spaces and classes embolden girls and women to embrace their power to speak out and cry out for justice against such violence, to learn that rape is not their fault, to come together and speak about their experiences. To call out for leaders to act, and to learn to be the leaders they are looking for. The educational gatherings for men provide opportunities for change, for men to see women as their equals and allies in creating a peaceful world for them and their children to thrive.
This is not to negate how terrifying it is to be in fear of such attacks, and to feel helpless. Writing this in my relatively peaceful home of Los Angeles, I cannot speak properly to what it is to live in this fear and environment. I can only quote what the girls and women said to me when I was there this year—almost every single girl I asked about what Congo needs right now answered “Peace.” Iragi, a Sewing Workshop student in this year’s Class of 2017, dug deeper into that need. “If girls and women are given the chance, given an education, we can change the future of Congo,” Iragi says. “We have to start within ourselves. If there is no love in ourselves and our families, the government, the leaders, will not love, as they are just people, raised up in our homes, our families.”
Read on to learn what inspires us, what is happening now, and what has changed over the past seven years. Then take action, and share the story to amplify the voices and stories of women and girls around the world!
We are grateful for your partnership as we look forward to the next seven years!
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!
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 https://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!