Friday, April 2, 2010

Girls with Babies

During my trip to Bukavu last fall, I learned that in extremely poor families, young girls are sometimes accused of witchcraft and banished from their homes, scapegoats to mitigate family misfortune. Unfortunately, in order to survive these girls often become prostitutes, get pregnant, and end up living on the streets with babies.

My heart went out to these desperate young mothers and their children. Hortense, my friend and Administrator, has talked about helping these girls for some time, so we organized a vocational training class at Ushindi Center which she calls, Girls with Babies.

We had no trouble finding girls to fill the group. The first Saturday 30 girls showed up, some over 20 years and too old for the group. The following Monday, 35 more girls were sitting outside our door when Ushindi Center opened. The youngest girl to join is 15 years old with a two months old baby.

Some of these girls have tragic stories. One was kidnapped by the Interahamwe while going to visit her grandmother. She was taken into the bush where she experienced unbearable atrocities: gang raped repeatedly every day by 9 men, treated as a slave doing hard labor, and forced to cook and eat human flesh. She escaped with 2 other girls, only later to discover that she was pregnant. She is 16 years old now and due to deliver any day. A cute girl, she continues to look startled, her eyes never blinking.

Most have had little schooling, so the group began with literacy training and a good deal of tough love and values clarification by the sewing teacher, Verdiane. In addition to sewing, the training plans to educate girls about child care, domestic violence, their reproductive systems, family planning, and good nutrition.

By educating girls and teaching them how to make a living, we are working toward women’s emancipation, autonomy and empowerment in Congo, changing the mentality and practices in local communities at the grassroots level.
This program needs additional funding. Ushindi Center would be grateful for any contribution you can make at this time. Please make out checks to Empower Congo Women and send to Dr. Victoria Bentley, PO Box 60940, Santa Barbara, CA 93160, or you can contribute online through paypal on ECW website: All donations are fully tax-exempt.

With love and gratitude,

No comments: