Action Kivu | ABFEC Sewing Graduation Spring 2015
Mumosho, DRC

In Congo, a country where women have been deliberately silenced, where they have little or no land rights, where education is not an expectation and it is reported that 2.5 million girls are out of school, these women are speaking up. They’re learning to sew, a trade that is already earning them income to send their girls to school, to feed and clothe their kids, to save money for the future. It was Action Kivu’s Sewing Workshop graduation day for 60 girls and women in a village in eastern Congo! Celebrating, the women held high their graduation certificates, sang songs of gratitude, and made plans for their new small business ventures as designers and seamstresses.



Neema is 17 years old. She told us: ”I was forced to drop out of school school because I have no father and my mother is so poor. I was also unwillingly impregnated when I was 15 and I was in the second year of secondary school. Through the sewing program I have come to understand that it’s not the end of my life; this program gave me hope. When I joined the program, I had no hope for the future and I had no vision for my life. I want to have hope for my mother, my child and myself. When I graduate from this program or if I am lucky to work for the program at the end, I will build a good home for my mother, my child and myself.  I am determined to send my child to school.”



Bulonza is 18 years old.  She said: “Both my father and brother died. My brother died in the conflict when he was attacked by FDLR on the road from Misisi which is one of the biggest gold mining sites in the South Kivu province. I have nobody except my mother and my daughter. This sewing program is the source of  the new hope I have.  That’s why I never absent – I will be here until I finish the program. Before I came to the program I could not read my name, use a tape measure, or count numbers. I am proud of myself and now I have a vision:  I will work hard, get a sewing machine, start working, save money, and start my own business as part of a sewing collective.  I don’t want to get married; I want to live with my mother and my child.”



Cigarhulira told us: ”I want to buy a plot of land and build a house to live in. My mom is very poor but she loves me. She takes care of my child when I am at the Sewing Center.”



M’fulo said: “Because my mother was only giving birth to girls- I am the first born of four girls – my father abandoned my mother and married a different woman.  He even sold the place where we were staying. I am physically disabled because my father did not help my mother when she was sick by taking me to get a polio vaccine. I did not go to school because I am a girl. My dream is to be able one day to help my mother get a new place to stay with my younger sisters and help them go to school.”



M’Cigohwa told us: “My vision is to become a modelist [sic] and seamstress designer and be able to become the first seamstress in my community.”



Mushekuru recounted: “I am 16 and I didn’t go to school, my father said ‘no need to send girls to school.’  My sister is also part of the sewing program.  My father divorced our mother for unknown reasons; we still don’t know why. My dream is to work hard and help my mom and my grandmother who took my mother and her 5 children in.”



Bulonza said: “I am 19 years old. My wish was to get an education but my father did not send me to school because I am a girl.  I know he is poor but he sent my brother. I want to have a sewing collective, and when I get married I will send all my children to school, regardless of their gender.”



Francine is head seamstress and a former participant in the second sewing program at ABFEC. Francine is an educated young woman who said: “I got married very young before even completing secondary school. I told my husband that I had a vision to become a seamstress but he encouraged me to continue secondary school.  I graduated and got my secondary school diploma and then joined the sewing program at ABFEC where I got a sewing machine and today I am a head seamstress teaching others. The day we took the test, I was very confident and I was top of the class. My dream is to be able to consolidate a high profile sewing program and continue teaching others. My sewing machine was stolen, but I am working hard to save for a new one so that I can have some further income to pay school fees for my children. I don’t need to wait for my husband to do it, I am an empowered woman!”