Justine works at a local health center in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). When COVID-19 hit, “I participated in an awareness campaign about COVID-19 where we went out and educated the community.” A widow and mother of 12 children, Justine works tirelessly, but still struggles to cover her family’s financial needs, such as affording to send all her children to school. In addition to her health center work, she carries products from local mines between communities and works in agriculture.
Justine, like many women, longs to provide a stable, secure future for her children and says, “I am not able to pay local school fees for my children. All the different jobs I take on are to provide food and medical care for them." Access to medical care for herself and her children is often a woman's priority when working to build a safe and secure life. When every woman has steady income and resources to practice things like good nutrition and personal hygiene, her community can rapidly develop and thrive.
For Her Family
Justine is not alone. Women in the DRC face similar hardships and obstacles every day. The jobs available mainly consist of working in agriculture or carrying loads to the mining fields. Women are denied land ownership and rights, and the landowners are often politicians living abroad or in larger cities. After the harvest period ends, 90-percent of what women harvest are exported to the main cities as well, instead of the local community. Physical harm is an additional threat to the women that work near or in mining. Rape and sex trafficking plague women traveling in remote places. Women transporting products are often caught in the conflict between factions warring over mining territory.
The daily, physical strain of these jobs have a long-lasting toll. Zawadi F. also carries mining products on top of working in the fields—her main source of income—in order to support her five young children. For years she has suffered from consistent back pain, and the weight of the mining loads has only worsened her condition.
COVID-19 has made finding work harder for women who are supporting their families. Zawadi N. is a widow and mother of three children who earns some money by selling corn flour, but it’s still not enough to afford school fees. She tries to make extra money by carrying luggage to the mining field, but she only gets paid according to the weight of the luggage, and the current mining activities are low. The COVID-19 lockdown slowed the economic activities in her area causing her small business to collapse.
For Her Future
Every woman deserves to be able to determine the course of her own life and live up to her full potential. By enrolling in Women for Women International's Stronger Women, Stronger Nations training program, women in Rubaya are looking to access the knowledge, skills, and resources they’ve been denied in order to find their power and use it to transform their lives. By joining the program, Zawadi N., Zawadi F., and Justine hope to earn a living with jobs that are safer, neither leaving them vulnerable to violence nor putting their health at risk.
For Zawadi F., she hopes that the Stronger Women, Stronger Nations program will give her the opportunity to open her own workshop where she will be able to earn money without the physical labor that puts extra strain on her injured back. Justine sees the program as an opportunity to learn how to better financially support her family.
“I hope to learn a different vocational skill, how to provide moral and financial support for my family, as well as be able to pay school fees for my children,” Justine says. She hopes the program will help lead to a huge change in their lives.
New practical skills such as tailoring, running a business, caring for personal and family health, building support systems, and advocating for rights help women in the DRC realize their power to become leaders. Zawadi N. looks at joining Women for Women International as something greater for herself, her family, and her community: “I want to join Women for Women International because I want to change my life and support my family and be a model for marginalized women in Rubaya.”