Wednesday, September 24, 2008


A startling fact about the Congolese women in this photograph is that all of them have been subjected to brutal sexual violence.

It gets worse: They have lost their husbands and been forced to leave their homes and villages. Without skills to make a living, they are the sole of support of their children. They are alone and without resources; there is no one to help them.

How this can happen is unfathomable to us in the west. But this nightmare continues to be reality for hundreds of thousands of women in DR Congo.


Donations to this cause can be made to Empower Conogo Women, a 501(c)3 charitable organization dedicated to healing trauma around the world. Your donations will be tax-exempt.

Please make checks payable to:
Empower Congo Women
PO Box 60940
Santa Barbara, CA 93111

The women thank you.

With love and gratitude,

Saturday, September 20, 2008

AVDC members join Women for Women International

AVDC members join Women for Women International program in Bukavu.

As I mentioned before, my translator Hortense Barholere works for Women for Women International. Familiar with the program schedule, she knew they were offering one last training in Bukavu before they moved their focus to the country. She thought the AVDC women survivors might be interested and passed the information along to me. Only caveat was the deadline for signing up was fast approaching.

Were they interested? Oh, yes, were they ever! So Yves, the AVDC President, and I gathered their relevant information, delivered it to the Women for Women office, and arranged for the women to meet the enrollment staff on the last day before cut-off. Whew!

What a great opportunity! Thank you, Hortense for the heads up!

My friend and translator, Hortense.

Women for Women International is a wonderful program that educates and vocationally trains women affected by war in 9 locations around the globe: Bosnia, Kosovo, Herzegovia, Afganistan, Iraq, Sudan, Nigeria, Rwanda, and DR Congo.

The program is one year long, with 20 women forming each group that participates. Twenty-three of the AVDC women applied, but not all were accepted: three did not meet the age requirements, and another three had participated previously so were ineligible.

The program is a pragmatic combination of vocational training, life skills, and literacy classes. It begins slowly with twice monthly classes for two months, then meets twice weekly for another ten months, allowing the women time to assimilate the training into their lives.

The vocational skills taught are: soap-making, tye-dye, food processing, tailoring, knitting, embroidery, juice making, and business management. These are very real ways women can make a living in this culture.

The life skills training is more general but equally important: women's rights, social action, health, politics, economics, and more business training. The women are able to follow their interests and to choose a speciality. Literacy training is offered to those who cannot write their name.

The program also pays a small stipend: $10 each month plus $60 for those who finish the program.

As little as this money is by western standards, it is a godsend for the women and a strong motivator for them to finish the program. An enterprising woman can start a business with $10, buying food such cassava or fish at the source, then walking all day to the city where she makes a small profit. This is how many women improve their circumstances; the only thing holding them back is getting the initial $10.

The AVDC group of women began first week in September. Sticking to this program will not always be easy for them: the training center is several hours walk from their homes, they have to continue working during this time, and both they and their children are sometimes sick.

Let's wish them success. I will let you know how they fare as I get updates.

With love and gratitude,