Supporting women who live in war and conflict takes a team of people from many different backgrounds and skill sets.
As part of our 'Meet our Team' series, this week we spoke to Aganze Eliud Murhabazi, the IT Officer at Women for Women International in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who also supports our global Communications team. Aganze talks about his passion for helping women survivors of war fulfill their potential.
How did you come to work at Women for Women International?
I applied after finishing my university degree in Information Technology. When I saw the advertisement for the job I slowly started learning about Women for Women International and also spoke to people who worked for the organisation.
I was inspired by what makes our approach effective: we work with women in their own communities and they are the main actors of change.
"When you go to the field you see the joy our work is bringing to the communities where we work," shares Aganze, en route to visit one of our training centers in eastern DRC.
What do you enjoy the most about the work?
I especially enjoy the communications part of my role because I get to go to the field and learn more about what we are doing.
Since the office opened in 2004, we have served more than 98,000 women through our year-long program in eastern Congo's North and South Kivu provinces. By working in communications you see the reality of daily struggles but you also see the impact Women for Women International is having on the ground.
A great example of this is when the monthly $10 stipends are distributed to participants – you can immediately see the ripple effect this has on the local economy as women go to buy basic necessities for the coming weeks.
What part is most challenging?
We always have our hands full so managing time is a challenge – we are constantly looking for ways to combine tasks and prioritize what is most important. To do this job, you need to be flexible and look for solutions to problems. The more you keep learning the more flexible and adaptable you become.
When it comes to interviewing participants you need to be aware of the region you are visiting as the women's experiences are unique. For example, our participants in Kasika may have been witnesses or survivors of the massacre which took place there in 1998. Even today, you can still feel the fear among women. You have to be very careful about how you approach sensitive topics.
In my role, I also need to balance my work between IT and communications responsibilities. I need to make sure everything is running smoothly from an IT perspective before I go out into the field.
Travel is also challenging because the shortest distance we travel from our office is two hours but we can travel up to six or seven hours. We will leave the office at 8am and not reach the training center until 2pm or 3pm.
Although the DRC is one of the largest countries in Africa, only about 2% of the roads are paved. This presents a significant challenge for our teams, especially during rainy reason when the roads become impassable.
I recorded this clip when we were travelling to reach our program in Bukavu. Cars got trapped in the mud and then the road was blocked off completely which meant we had to turn around.
What challenges are women facing in the DRC?
The women in the DRC face many challenges – access to education, healthcare, rights – but the main issue is poverty. Most of our participants do not have a sufficient income source when they start the program, this makes them dependent as well as prone to experience different types of violence.
When women come to our program you see how vulnerable they are but after a few months, you can really see the changes. Women share that one of the key outcomes of the program is that now they are able to eat twice a day.
I remember one participant who could barely speak in front of people, but when she graduated she was able to speak at the ceremony without any fear.
Why do you think sharing the stories of our program participants is important?
I think one of the most important parts of sharing stories is to show what it’s like to be a woman or vulnerable person in the DRC. This highlights our challenges but also the day-to-day activities of our program participants and their successes.
One of the best projects I’ve worked on was interviewing Cinama, one of our inspiring program graduates. At the start of the program, Cinama had very little income and was unable to support her family. Since graduating she has created a brick-making business and now employs more than 50 women who make and sell bricks together.
Cinama has become a role model in her community.
If you’re interested in working with our team to support women survivors of war and conflict, take a look at available career opportunities with Women for Women International here.