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Celebrating 7 Years: Your Impact in Congo Through Action Kivu

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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!

Women Celebrating Women in Congo: Stand Up to Violence, Step Into Leadership!

Colorful umbrellas were raised high in the Congo sky as women grasped hands in solidarity, lifting each other up to envision standing together against violence.  The umbrellas dotted the crowd of more than 400 women gathered outside the Mumosho Women’s Center to celebrate International Women’s Day. In a country often called the worst place to be a woman, Colonel Honorine called the women to action.

A rarity to find a woman in such a place of power in the Congolese National Police, Colonel Honorine represents the future of women in leadership in the DRC. Articulate and charismatic, she is a defender of women’s rights in charge of Children & Women’s Protection for all of South Kivu. Honorine spoke of her work, encouraging the women to take on leadership and open their eyes to know their rights. Amani addressed the gathering, sharing more information to raise the women’s awareness on how strong they are. His message of empowerment: that their energy and strength can change the world if only they know and accept they are strong.

Amani, Colonel Honorine and the women of Mumosho

 

We’re raising funds here at Action Kivu to continue the work Amani is doing, and to pay for sewing kits and machines for the current students in the sewing workshops: $195 purchases the machine, fabric, and tools to launch their small business!

Please consider donating to this work today. Did you get a tax refund, and are looking for a great cause to invest it in?  Tax deductible, every dollar makes a difference, and goes directly to the entrepreneurial trainings, literacy workshops, and agricultural training on the ground in Congo.

Claudine on Community & Coming Back To Life Through the Sewing Workshop

Claudine was raised in a family of eight, playing “jump the rope” with her siblings, helping her mother cook. Struggling to make money, if the family had enough money to send a child to school, her elder brother was chosen, so she never had the chance at an education.

Though her story may sound familiar and her future adhering to the statistics, Claudine is changing this chapter, rewriting her story.

Shunned by her mother when a pregnancy was forced upon her, Claudine learned of the Sewing Workshop at the Mumosho Women’s Center, from her uncle. She heard how other girls were trained in the skill, and then received a sewing kit with a pedal-powered machine (crucial for working without electricity), and started earning income from their small businesses. Claudine hopes to receive her sewing machine this May, to create the life she envisions, caring for her child and herself, and writing the story of her new life.

“Being a part of this community has changed a lot in my life and it makes feel there are people who care for me and love me. Being in the program makes me come back to life again.”

Can you help make Claudine’s dream a reality? We’re raising money to continue funding our programs in Congo, and topurchase the sewing kits for this summer’s graduating class – $195 purchases the machine, fabric, and tools to launch their work! Every dollar makes a difference, and goes directly to the work on the ground.  Donate here!  And read more about our programs on our blog.

Creating New Stories for Women in Congo: Sewing, Reading, Farming, Your Dollars Make a Difference!

The stories coming from Congo are often about war: the crimes against humanity, the rape of women, the poverty and malnutrition that is created by a country constantly in conflict.We want to share stories of change —women learning to sew, to read, to farm vegetables and healthy grains to feed their families and sell at the market.  Women who are not giving up on their lives, or the future of Congo, flooding our Women’s Center to learn to read, so they can choose whom to vote for in the next election. Starting sewing businesses or earning income through our partner in Fair Trade, The Peace Exchange, and earning the income to send their children to school, to educate and empower the future leaders of their communities and country.For $195, we supply our sewing grads with kits that include a pedal-powered Singer sewing machine, thread, scissors, and material to start earning income using the new skills they have learned.

Any amount we raise toward that goal is crucial in creating sustainable growth in eastern Congo. Can you give today? Your tax deductible donation goes directly to the work on the ground, telling these women that they are not alone; you’ve heard their stories, and they matter.  When we invest in women and girls, we change the future.

According to the United Nations Foundation, via the Clinton Global Initiative:

  • Women who have control of their own income tend to have fewer children, and fertility rates have shown to be inversely related to national income growth. Girls and young women delaying marriage and having fewer children means a bigger change of increasing per capita income, higher savings, and more rapid growth.
  • One quarter to one half of girls in developing countries become mothers before 18, and girls under 15 are five times more likely to die during childbirth than women in their 20s
  • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families.”

To move beyond the staggering statistics, meet some of the women we partner with.  Cozi, a girl whose life was changed with an unplanned for pregnancy.  She shared with us that her “entire life is a new story” since joining the sewing workshop.

And Cikwanine, whose family “gave up on her,” after she was “impregnated without her consent,” but she chose not to give up on herself, and joined the sewing workshop and Teen Mother program at the Mumosho Women’s Center.  She shared, “My life has changed a lot since I joined the ABFEK program. I share my experience with other people here in the sewing program and I feel comforted, now I have hope, joining this program gives me a new hope for my future.”
If you haven’t met our partner, Amani, who started the non-profit ABFEK from his own income, this post tells why he so strongly believes that empowering women is the path to peace and growth in his country.  The video at the bottom of the post was created a few years ago by The Enough Project, and gives a great sense of who Amani is.

Please share in the story of one of our sewing graduates, Ernata, who graduated with her sewing certificate in June, 2012.  When we met her in January 2012, her story echoed that of a society where women have very little rights or value, and can be divorced without recourse for not bearing a male heir.   “I have a big wound inside my heart,” Ernata told us. “If I don’t have children with my husband, he will kick my out.  I’m noticing some changes, bad behavior, from his family members, who might urge him to chase me (from the home).”

Nine months later, Ernata gave birth to a different dream, as she works hard to sew uniforms for the kids in her village.  She takes a break from her own sewing to supervise a fellow seamstress. “I am very proud of myself today,” Ernata shares, “and my husband is proud of me and he’s happy to have me as a wife, especially as I help make an income for the family.”

There are so many stories of how the women’s lives have been changed, both by our entrepreneurial trainings as well as knowing that people around the the world believe in them and support them.  Donate here! And please share the women’s stories of hope with your friends, family, and colleagues!

Seed Distribution at the Demonstration Farm – Photos by Emma O’Brien

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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