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My Name is Wema Julienne: A Mother’s Commitment to Her Daughter’s Education

I work on my small farm every day in Budodo village, which is about 270 kilometers from Goma where violence has intensified, and initially struggled to make ends meet. In my village I would see examples of how other families were educating their children, especially girls too. I too am committed to ensuring my children have enough food and access to education. However, selling bananas on the market didn’t provide enough income to cover all our needs. Furthermore, the increasing violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has made things worse, making it challenging for women like me to go to our farms and markets. This disruption has reduced agriculture productivity, affecting both the food we get from our farms and our income from farming. 

Wema Julienne and Dorcele
Dorcelle and Wema. Credit: WfWI.

I have always looked out for opportunities to provide my children with a better future. While one of my children is fortunate enough to have a benefactor supporting his education, my daughter, Dorcelle, would be sent home from school due to unpaid fees on a regular basis. This made me very sad, and I had to find a way to get her back to class. When I heard about the Women for Women International program, I was hopeful that I would get some assistance. I shared my challenges with the WfWI team, and they encouraged me to join the program. The sessions were very helpful in establishing and boosting my banana business. I also joined a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) group, which allowed me to save, get loans, invest in my business, and, ultimately, take my daughter back to school. 

With an increase in my income, I can now pay the school fees for Dorcelle, who is in high school. She is 18 years old and an exceptional student, consistently ranking among the top two in her class. Unfortunately, her father was adamant to get her married. Despite her academic achievements, he did not see the value in continuing to educate her.  

He used to think that with her marriage she would bring the family two cows – a more practical investment than her future. Dorcelle was caught between her father's traditional beliefs and her aspirations for a better life. 

I was shocked and discouraged after hearing my husband’s beliefs. I work tirelessly to ensure that my daughter receives an education, and I do not want to see her give up on her goals. My husband and I have had countless arguments over how to use the stipend I get from the Stronger Women, Stronger Nations (SWSN) program. One time, he proposed we use the money to buy iron sheets for our house, but I firmly stood my ground, insisting that the money be used to pay Dorcelle's school fees. 

Sharing the lessons I learned from the SWSN program with my husband has helped him gain new perspectives on the importance of empowering women, their contribution to family development, and the significance of children's education, especially for girls. As a result, he agreed to let go of his previous ideas and embrace a new perspective, allowing Dorcelle to continue with her studies. 

When he had a change of heart, Dorcelle felt valued in our family. After she graduates from high school, she aspires to attend college to become a teacher. As this is her final year in high school, continuing to raise school fees has not been easy. However, I am committed to ensuring that she completes high school and can go on to fulfill her dreams. The school master has allowed me some time to get the remaining amount before the state exams. 

I am hopeful my daughter will graduate high school and get an opportunity to teach at a nearby primary school. With the little salary from the job, I know she will help me educate her younger brothers and sisters and save up money for her college.