The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has an extensive history of violence, brutal oppression by the colonial regime, and widespread violence amid the country’s struggle for independence. Ongoing small-scale conflicts across DRC followed between the 1960s-1980s. In the eastern region of DRC, civilians have grappled with war, civil strife, and rebellion since 1996.
Recent increases in conflict across Eastern DRC, between armed groups, government forces, and UN peacekeepers have again led to large scale displacement, civilians being caught in the crossfire, and increasing rates of rape. The long-standing and regular conflict perpetrates and deepens the impact of other crises, such as health emergencies (Ebola, cholera outbreaks) and natural disasters.
Women and girls suffer disproportionately from high rates of violence and extreme poverty, and services like healthcare, psychosocial support, security, and justice for survivors of violence are limited.
- 51% of Congolese women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime.
- 37% of women were married before their 18th birthday.
- 36.7% of women have at least minimal secondary education.
Our Work in DRC
Women for Women International developed our Stronger Women, Stronger Nations (SWSN) program to build up women’s knowledge and skills in the eastern region of DRC.
Since 2004, our programming in DRC has supported and trained women in communities affected by conflict. Our training provides women with knowledge of their rights and the training to become decision makers at home and in their communities. Our SWSN also connects them with Village Savings Loan Association (VSLAs), which allows them to deploy their skills and vocational training to generate income and save money while contributing to economic self-sufficiency for themselves and their families.
Male leaders, community members, and male family members of our program participants also enroll in our Men’s Engagement Program, where they are supported to change their behavior toward women’s rights and accept a bigger role for women in their communities.
As Change Agents, women are trained to advocate for their rights and inclusion and in their communities. Our advocacy in the region includes partnerships with local organizations, advocating for women’s rights, and the establishment of an advocacy alliance to raise the voices of marginalized decision makers across the eastern region of DRC.
We also expanded our health insurance projects to increase women’s access to affordable healthcare through Village Savings Loan Associations (VSLAs). This project provides micro-insurance for women in VSLAs groups to enter into agreements with local healthcare providers and receive preferential rates. This acts as a type of accreditation, which allows women to earn and save capital to pay for healthcare. This project resulted in a 50 per cent reduction in fees for women and their families seeking health services.
“What helps me deal with what I went through is the knowledge that I am not alone. Those who keep encouraging me give me the courage to continue.”
Workforce Training Partnerships
Since 2008, Bloomberg Philanthropies has supported marginalized women in sub-Saharan Africa to gain new job skills, basic business training, life skills, and a support network. Through their generous grant, Bloomberg Philanthropies has supported innovative programming to support women’s economic development and leadership roles in their communities in DRC.
- Since 2004, we have reached 110,419 women. 3,452 women enrolled in our Stronger Women, Stronger Nations program in 2022, and 3,710 previously enrolled participants graduated.
- 98% of women report saving a portion of their earnings by the time they graduate, compared to 23% at enrollment.
- 93% of women report receiving earnings from income-generating activities by graduation, compared to 74% at enrollment.
- 82% of women report being involved in decision-making to work and earn money after graduation, compared to 48% at the beginning of the program.
- Last year, 2,225 men enrolled in our Men’s Engagement Program, and 21,230 have been reached since the program's inception.