Tag Archives: Democratic Republic of Congo

Koy Thomson – Women’s empowerement

8 Mar

All people living in remote and conflict-affected areas endure levels of anxiety and hardship that we would find hard to imagine. Women bear the additional burden of discrimination, domination and abuse. But with rights and opportunities, women can become powerful leaders of positive change.

Photographs of the women we meet show strength and pride. But spend time with them and the rawness and injustice of gender inequality hits deep and hard. The human capability and drive to improve your own life and those of your children is blocked daily by the humiliation, abuse and disrespect engendered for being born female. Moved by what she was seeing on the high plateau of South Kivu, Thea, Children in Crisis’ Programme Manager in DR Congo wrote:

“Women are disadvantaged by their lack of education, by the paucity of life opportunities that come their way and by the deeply patriarchal society that teaches them from the moment they can talk – to be humble and servile and focus their life ambitions first and foremost on being a wife and a mother, preferably while still a teenager. They are disadvantaged by social norms that condone their subjugation in all sorts of ways including through physical violence. They continue to be affected by the horrific legacy of a decade-long conflict in which sexual violence was used extensively as a weapon to humiliate, control and ruin lives.

Those who are lucky enough to get a good education and find themselves among the small minority of the formally employed, are more often than not crippled by a lack of self-confidence and self-belief and a reflexive submissiveness to male colleagues/men in general”.

Photographs of the women we meet show strength and pride. But spend time with them and the rawness and injustice of gender inequality hits deep and hard

Photographs of the women we meet show strength and pride. But spend time with them and the rawness and injustice of gender inequality hits deep and hard

‘Empowerment’ is something that comes from within. It is not something we can give or do to the women we encounter. But women are telling us what helps and are surprising us with what they value the most. The capacity to save and manage money in the company of other women has been strikingly popular and by global standards very effective, in both Afghanistan and DR Congo.

Village savings and loans associations (VSLAs) in DR Congo  

In the absence of banks, post office or other basic infrastructure, VSLAs have been instrumental in enabling isolated and self-sufficient Plateau communities in South Kivu, to raise family living standards. Thanks to the carefully saved money, health costs are more easily covered; children are in school more regularly, are better clothed and less likely to go hungry. Moreover, women (who make up more than 70% of the 705 VSLA members) have seen impressive gains in their social status, participation in community decision-making and value within the household.

Our Pamoja (Kiswahili for ‘together’) VSLA project in the remote Plateau area of South Kivu, DR Congo, started in April 2014. It consists in helping set up and providing support to groups of 20-30 community members to save regularly together and then access loans from these savings.

“Men used to think of us as children who were incapable of managing money and assets. Now they have seen that we are able to better manage what we have and that we think of the future.”

 Mrs Francine Nyarukundo, Kitembe VSLA member.

 

Women’s education, training & banking in Afghanistan

Under the Taliban, nine in ten women in Afghanistan went without any form of education. Some were married off too young, written off for life. At Children in Crisis, the education of out-of- school girls is our priority, particularly in hard-to- reach areas where poverty and displacement are the harsh reality.

The trust and respect that we build within communities in Afghanistan enables us to advocate for their daughters’ education. On a more practical level, the savings groups that are run from our education centres give women access to credit and the chance to earn and save. This stops families having to send their children out to work or, especially for girls, being married at a very young age. Instead, they can go to school, have a chance to learn and chase life’s opportunities.

The literacy and tailoring classes that we hold for women don’t only enable them to read and write for the first time, or just give them financial independence. They offer a rare chance to leave the home and socialise – an opportunity that shouldn’t be underestimated.

 

Amy Parker – DR Congo – Picture this

30 Jan

Picture this.

Harvest time is the only time of the year when you have a bit of spare cash. One of your children falls sick, but it is in September before the January potato harvest. You have no money to pay for medical fees. He dies.

Night falls at 6.30pm and the sun rises again at 5.30am year-round. You are in absolute darkness.

Your husband has complete control over you and your family’s life.

You had four children. Three of them died. You’re not sure what of, but they were constantly hungry. Your only surviving daughter is 15 but has never set foot into a school.  

You are bored. There’s nothing to do and no reason to work. You’ll always be poor.

You are a widow with seven children. You are completely isolated from your neighbours who view you and your family as a lost cause.

Over the last eight months we have been running a pilot project with our partners, Eben Ezer Ministry International, on the Uvira mid and high Plateau region of South Kivu, eastern DR Congo. Pamoja (meaning ‘together’ in Kiswahili), is a savings and credit programme that supports groups of 20 – 30 community members to meet regularly, save and then access small sums of money from these savings. These debts are then paid back over three months, with interest, back into the group’s cash box. After 12-months the total amount is shared out amongst members in ratio to the amount they have saved.

I spent time in September last year and last week visiting different groups and talking to members about their experiences and the above scenarios are all real-life testimonies from people I met. They describe major problems encountered by people in this isolated region.

So how is Pamoja helping?

Futina

Futina

Members from Tujenge group in Butumba village told me that the fact they now have the possibility of accessing small credits means that they can now save their children’s lives between harvests. Futina, a member of the same group, spoke of how she has used a credit to buy and sell sugar and oil. With some of the profits she has bought torches and batteries so that her family now have light in the long evenings.

Members from Tujenge group in Butumba village told me that the fact they now have the possibility of accessing small credits means that they can now save to improve their children’s lives between harvests.

Members from Tujenge group in Butumba village told me that the fact they now have the possibility of accessing small credits means that they can now save their children’s lives between harvests.

Women from Mandeleo group in Kahololo village told me of the small but significant changes happening in their lives. As members of the saving group, they are now able to contribute money to their families’ affairs and as a result, their husbands are starting to include them in discussions and decisions about the running of their households for the first time.

Rose, a member of Tujenge group, has used credit to pay for school fees for her one remaining daughter to start primary school. She hopes that this will mean her daughter has a brighter future. Members from groups in Butumba and Gitigarawa spoke to me of finally having something to aim for. Before Pamoja, many villagers would sit idly all day long with nothing to do. Having to save every other week means group members are now actively looking for work so that they can go to meetings.

Notiya

Notiya

Cultural expectations in this region require people to be able to provide visitors with tea and food. Neighbours stopped visiting Notiya soon after her husband died as she couldn’t afford any refreshments for them. For years she has been ignored, struggling to keep her children alive. Notiya told me that being a member of her savings group has meant she is now able to receive visitors as she should. Her fellow savers have become her family, she is no longer the poor, shunned widow. She is once again a valued member of society.

As a result of being able to contribute money to their families' affairs, women are, for the first time, being included in discussions and decisions about the running of their households.

As a result of being able to contribute money to their families’ affairs, women are, for the first time, being included in discussions and decisions about the running of their households.

 

Pamoja is an example of what poor communities are capable of with technical and moral support. We have six months left of the current project, and we will continue to work hard with our groups and track progress and challenges. It has made me absolutely determined to ensure that we are able to widen the programme to other communities on the Plateau, as well as staying with these original groups so that they can carry on taking charge of their own and their families’ futures.

A chance to learn, a chance in life

9 Sep

“Our constant has been a long term commitment to shattered communities after the cameras have left and the emergency aid dries up.”

In the first of a series of blogs about our 21st anniversary campaign, our CEO Koy Thomson highlights some of Children in Crisis’s achievements over the last 20 years.  Achievements only made possible because of the generosity and support of our donors and supporters.  We wanted to take the opportunity to thank you.  

John, a disabled shoemaker in Sierra Leone, Oct 2013

Koy Thomson (left of picture) meets John, a disabled shoemaker in Sierra Leone, Oct 2013

 

We are really excited to launch our 21st anniversary campaign ‘A chance to learn, a chance in life’ (#ChanceToLearn).

21 years is a coming of age, as with every birthday, we thought it’s important to take stock and reflect on what you’ve helped us achieve in the last two decades.

It is thanks to your desire to take a stand and do something in a world that is often chaotic and unfair that we have achieved so much.

With your help we have built more than 48 schools, trained more than 10,500 teachers and educated more than half a million children.

In Sierra Leone, we’ve provided vocational training to nearly 1,000 child soldiers, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo we have improved education for some 57,000 children in 50 schools and in Afghanistan nearly 500 women who missed education because of the war, graduated from vocational training and three-quarters of them have been able to set up livelihoods as a result.

It has been a long journey to our present focus on education and child protection. In the early years, we delivered safe water for 200,000 people in former Yugoslavia, provided medical assistance to 8,000 children in Russia and treated 6,700 children in Poland for cancer and chronic illness.  In Afghanistan, 10,000 children have been protected from abuse and mistreatment and over 100,000 street working and out of school children have receiving accelerated teaching.

Our constant has been a long term commitment to shattered communities after the cameras have left and the emergency aid dries up.  Because resources are scarce the support must be long-lasting. Our aim is to improve the lives of children and their communities in some of the most remote, post-conflict territories by delivering sustainable education.

School children welcoming Children in Crisis in Burundi

School children welcoming Children in Crisis in Burundi

 

The South Kivu Plateau in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The South Kivu Plateau in the Democratic Republic of Congo

 

In total over the past 20 years with your help, we have reached and helped nearly 1.4 million children and their families.

Your support to these children’s education and protection has given them the best start for living a happy and healthy life. I have no doubt that because of you, they face a brighter, better future.

A huge thank you from us and all the children we have helped.  Without our supporters we couldn’t have done all this.

But some of our projects are under threat which is why we have launched an urgent appeal.  Ebola in West Africa and political transition in Afghanistan are having a direct impact on our work.

We need to adapt to the circumstances and play an active role in providing a preventative and protection response.  To fulfil our commitment so that children and communities can fulfil their dreams of receiving a quality education and to create and continue their small business enterprises to support their families.

But this needs resource and we really need your support.

It’s so important that the UK government’s UK Aid Match Scheme is supporting us between September and December.  Every pound raised from the British public will be doubled AND if you are a UK tax payer, we can benefit from Gift Aid too.  So your donation will work even harder and go even further.

Please help.  It’s really vital.

Thank you.

Please pledge your support, so that Children in Crisis can reach out to many more vulnerable children, and give them a chance to learn, a chance in life.

Follow #ChanceToLearn on twitter and facebook.

Donate button graphic

 

Dru McInenrey – Summer Intern

24 Jul

Hello, Dru here

I am Children in Crisis’s summer Intern! A little background on myself, I am a Government and International Politics Major from across the pond at George Mason University near Washington DC. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to London for the summer, and even more fortunate to land an internship for an outstanding charity. Naturally, the first thing I wanted to do upon my arrival was to orient myself with the astounding work Children in Crisis produced over the past 20 years. This is when I discovered the vast photo library.

The Children in Crisis photo library has thousands of pictures of children and communities spanning over four continents and numerous countries.  Going through some of our most recent photos, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share some pictures of where we have been and where we are going this year. Posted are photos from some our programme visits to communities in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Democratic Republic of Congo. I’ve highlighted just a few of many programs that have positively affected these hard to reach communities. In addition I have added pictures of the marginalised Batwa communities of Burundi that Children in Crisis plans to begin working with in the near future. Hope you enjoy the optimism depicted in these photos as much as I did.

Cheers

-Dru McInenrey

Burundi, Batwa

The children of Burundi are just as curious as we are optimistic about Children in Crisis’s vision for education.

Burundi, children, batwa

It is evident the children of Burundi don’t lack imagination. With proper schooling the future is bright!

Burundi, Batwa, children

Girls from the Batwa community perform a dance in front of their friends and family.

burundi, batwa, children

It’s the boys turn! Batwa boys are excited to perform in front of their community.

Sierra Leone - Children in Crisis trained 159 Teachers in 2012.

Sierra Leone – Children in Crisis trained 159 Teachers in 2012.

Empowering Women in Liberia!  337 women participated in our Vocational Training Programme in 2012.

Empowering Women in Liberia! 337 women participated in our Vocational Training Programme in 2012.

Democratic Republic of Congo . In 2012 Children in Crisis built a permanent, weather-proof, durable school to give 269 children a place in which they can sit and learn.

Democratic Republic of Congo . In 2012 Children in Crisis built a permanent, weather-proof, durable school to give 269 children a place in which they can sit and learn.

Our Favourite Photos

9 Aug

“Some things are just universally funny…”

Children in Crisis is nearly 20 years old and we have spent almost all of our life being completely snap-happy. Naturally, through time we have come to know these photos quite well, so we thought we would share with you a few of our favourites…

Koy, CEO:

I have always loved this one from a Community Based Education Centre in Kabul. The boy at the front refused to be distracted by ‘distinguished visitors’ and other teachers piling into his schoolroom – one (me) wielding a camera inches from his face –  he just wanted to get on with the task in his school book. I admired his determination and the quality of his concentration.

Koy

Dedicated school boy, Kabul, Afghanistan, 2011

Georgina, Fundraising Assistant:

I don’t know if I need to explain why this is my favourite photo, everyone who sees it smiles like I did when I first saw it. Past the initial brilliance of the protagonist’s face, there is such a feeling of strength and togetherness about the image which I love, as all the women gather in front of the school Children in Crisis built with our partner Eben-Ezer Ministries in Bijojo village.

Georgina

Bijojo Village, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2011

James, Project Funding Manager :

The village of Bibokoboko in DRC has very few men, they were rounded up and executed during the worst of the conflict.  Many of the village’s women, like Nyamatunga, now face the seemingly impossible task of raising their children (Nyamatunga has 6) while trying to scrape a living.  As if this isn’t enough this community has built its own road and own school, which we will now help them complete.  Nyamatunga’s strength and resolve is unquestionable, and reflected in this photo.

James

Bibokoboko, DRC, 2011

Bethan, Programme Manager for Afghanistan:

On first glance I like it because it’s so colourful and you don’t often see photos so full of colour coming from our Afghanistan work, particularly featuring girls. Then because of what it represents, this was back in 2005, Children in Crisis were working on a teacher training project which covered the whole of Afghanistan. Only four years after the fall of the Taliban and these girls were going to school for the first time thanks to our project.

Bethan

School girls, Afghanistan, 2005

Katharine, Events and Community Manager:

This photo was taken on our CEO, Koy Thomson’s recent trip to Sierra Leone to visit our new project. I loved it as soon as I saw it because it so demonstrates the different generations that are helped by our work. And I love the cheeky little boy in the corner!

Katharine

Maseba Village, Kambia, Sierra Leone 2012

Tom, Project Funding Officer:

Although this may not be the best photo we have, it is one of my favourites as it shows the difficult, and beautiful, environments we work in. It shows Kakuba School which, as you can see, is the school that climbed a mountain.

Tom

Kakuba School, DRC, 2012

Elisabeth,

It’s such a lovely picture of Rubyagiza the new Education Manager for Eben-Ezer, with a baby from the village, the picture was taken on the night Amy, our Programme Manager for DRC, arrived at Ngobi for the inauguration of the Ngobi primary school. I love the hat too – the hat is definitely his hat – Amy tells me red/pink is apparently a symbol of his family.

Elisabeth

Rubyagiza and baby, Ngobi Village, DRC, 2012

Joe, Fundraising and Website Officer:

I love this photo. I travelled to Kabul in October 2011, visiting the Community Based Education Centres (CBECs) that Children in Crisis run within the city’s poorest areas, giving out of school children a route into education. I’d expected to find it a difficult task photographing the pupils within the centres, expecting them to be wary of this stranger with the fancy camera. How wrong I was.

Within a few minutes of visiting my first CBEC I was mobbed by overexcited kids, jumping in front of the lens, I felt guilty at the bedlam I was causing. These girls were some of the more composed kids, but not so cool as to miss the opportunity of having a laugh at each other’s expense. It was great to see how some things are just universally funny.

Joe

Community Based Education Centre, Kabul, Afghanistan, 2011

JessProject Fundraising Intern:

This was one of the first photos I saw when I started working at Children in Crisis and with smiley faces like these, how could it not be my favourite?!

Jess

School girls, Sierra Leone, 2010

Sarah, Director of Programmes:

Because children’s voices need to be heard, and we work with people who really listen…

Sarah

Eraste Rwatangabo, a sorely missed friend and colleague, DRC, 2011

To see more of our photos and keep updated with our work go to our website, like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter @childrencrisis.

We push for justice in the DR Congo

17 May

“Were the lives of our dear colleagues and the three other passengers that perished with them really worth so little? It is almost unthinkable.”

 – Sarah Rowse – Director of Programmes.

In October 2011, in one of the worst attacks against humanitarian workers in eastern DR Congo, four members of our local partner NGO Eben Ezer Ministry International (EMI) were murdered as they travelled up to schools on the remote Plateau. Here our Director of Programmes, Sarah Rowse writes about her recent visit to Kinshasa, and Children in Crisis’ pursuit of justice for our dear friends and colleagues.

I travelled to Kinshasa, the capital city of Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), at the end of March with our partners from EMI, Reverend Muvunyi Samson and Dr Lazare Sebiterereko. Although I’ve worked and travelled extensively in eastern DR Congo since 2005, it was my first time to the capital city and as far removed from the rural isolation and savage beauty of eastern Congo as one could imagine.

Our visit was laden with import. Since the brutal murders of our much missed colleagues, Eraste, Tite, Musore and Edmond as they travelled en route to the Plateau to conduct programme activities in schools and communities last October, there has been no enquiry into their murders – no attempt by the Congolese authorities to gather evidence.  Six months after one of the worst attacks against humanitarian workers in the history of eastern DR Congo, and nothing. Were the lives of our dear colleagues and the three other passengers that perished with them really worth so little? It is almost unthinkable.

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The goal of our trip was to push for an independent investigation to take place in relation to the October 2011 massacre of our colleagues, and in doing so, meet with embassies, UN agencies, NGOs and donors to seek their backing and support in our pursuit for justice.

Former Vice President Azarius Ruberwa, who was part of a delegation from Kinshasa that attended the memorial ceremony for our colleagues in October, had organised high level meetings with the Attorney General, the Minister of Justice, the Military Prosecutor, the European Union, US Embassy, and others. Another Senator Maitre Moise, a lawyer was on hand throughout the week to help Children in Crisis and EMI in presenting the case to the judicial authorities.

We met with the UN Secretary General’s special representative Leila Zerrougi (head of MONUSCO, the UN stabilisation force), and was encouraged by the news that she is pushing hard on the criminal case. Following our meeting with him in Kinshasa, the Attorney General has also instructed the general prosecutor to open a civil case.

This is all encouraging. It is evidence that, no matter how slowly, action is being taken into our colleagues’ murders, but we know that there is a long way to go to seek justice in a country where crimes go unpunished and perpetrators of violent acts enjoy an unparalleled level of impunity.

When I first interviewed for the job at Children in Crisis back in 2004 I was asked the question, ‘justice or democracy?’ My answer at the time was that if one can’t have both, then justice is paramount. Never have I felt such commitment to my response as I boarded the plane on return from Kinshasa six-weeks ago.

We have a tough road ahead of us but will continue to push in honour of our colleagues. Peace and reconciliation in DR Congo can only be built on a foundation of justice and respect for human rights.

On behalf of Children in Crisis, EMI and the families and communities with whom we work in DR Congo, I remain enormously grateful for the kindness and support of Children in Crisis’s friends and supporters during what has been an immensely difficult time. We will keep you updated.