COFAPRI after Five Years: Empowering Communities in Rural DRC
In the year 2015-2016 COFAPRI expanded it’s work empowering women through small business development and educational sponsorship in the villages of Eastern DR Congo.
Summary of Year – 2015 – 2016
By Mugisho Ndabuli Theophile, Founder/Exec. Director, COFAPRI
Congolese Females Action for Promoting Rights and Development COFAPRI is a women grassroots organisation located in eastern DR Congo. It was created in 2009. Since then it has been helping women and children victims of rape and domestic violence, and other vulnerable women and children. It involves women in income generating activities and helps children to have access to school education.
Eastern DR Congo is notorious for it’s cyclic wars and the brutal consequences particulaqrly affecting women and children.
Although the situation in the region is still tense with local militias – the year 2015-2016 was much better.
After the disastrous theft in 2011 when all the animals we had provided in Mulende Village were stolen, increased security has resulted in far fewer incidents of theft.
Thankfully also we have had no incidents of conflict rape in our communities – in the last two years.
This means the women of COFAPRI are less fearful and more engaged in our activities.
The main activities COFAPRI has covered in 2015 are the following:
The sewing activities started in 2015 in Nyangezi village. The number of 56 women completed their training and graduated publically on April 10, 2016. Today, more than 40 of these women are now generating an income from the clothes they sew. Most of them sew clothes on command and others sew and sell their clothes in the nearest market of Munya village.
Today, another 30 women and girls are taking the same training. They started last May 2016 and they will complete their training by the end of 2016. We expect the graduation on the International Women’s Day 2017.
2. Small business
COFAPRI is also helping the women to involve in small business. The programme was initiated in 2014 when the Kelley School of Business involved COFAPRI through Safe World for Women. After the training COFAPRI was given 250 US$ which we started with the small business activities. Today the women are happy with the advancement they have gone. At present, 15 women have been involved in this activity and they reveal this is very helpful to them and their families. The women are retailing small items such as rice, beans, sugar, soap, palm cooking oil, flour, one or two racks of beer, fish, banana, cabbage, groundnut, etc.
3. Animal rearing
This activity started in 2012 with one pig. By 2015, the organization had 23 pigs. In addition to pigs, the members have been rearing guinea pigs, rabbits and goats. All these animals are not in a single farm. They are kept in the compounds of the members, as security against looting. The members are happy with animal rearing; they are helping them to get some income by selling them, getting meat or using their dung as fertilizer in agriculture. Rearing these animals is very demanding, mostly pigs when they have piglets.
Most rural population in the DR Congo feed on rudimentary agriculture. COFAPRI women have been doing the same. Men and women in COFAPRI work together in a community field where they grow various crops: beans, maize, soya, sorghum, cabbage, potatoes, egg plants, tomatoes, manioc etc. The organization helps the new members to get cultivation tools such as machetes, hoes, seeds and plot of land. In order to increase the production, the dung of pigs, goats, rabbits and guinea pigs are used to fertilize the land. The harvest is sold to get money and the remainder is shared among the members.
5. Education, Health and Child Sponsorship
The women and children also benefit of education thanks to COFAPRI. The organization has also been helping the women to get education. The women who were involved in basic reading and writing are 20 and 17, respectively in Kabamba and Katana. They had two teachers who handled two teams in parallel. Their program lasted 6 months. These skills help them to start their sewing skill as they need to write down the measures of the clothes they cut. Moreover, the skills are helping the women in business, as they can now write down how much they benefited or lost and who took a debt from them, how much they took and when they will pay back.
For the children, we supported school fees and equipment for 96 children whose majority were girls in primary school (one boy in secondary). We first helped the kids to get registered, then we made strict follow up.
There was another kind of education we involved women in; that was learning about their hygienic conditions. We have been doing this using DVDs kindly supplied by Thare Machi Education (TME). For some DVDs, after watching one, then some practice follows. Eg: Keeping our teeth clean. The DVDs are very popular that a huge number often attend the sessions. They are helping the people to change their bad behaviours into positive ones.
In 2015-2016 COFAPRI sponsored 96 children in primary school (one boy in secondary). The organization has been supplying school equipment to the children and paid them school fees.
The women have also been getting fempads, pants, bras and soap in order to be hygienically clean.
Sewing Machine project
In 2015, COFAPRI trained 56 women in sewing. The women publicly gradated on April 10, 2016.
Today, 43 of the women are now doing their own sewing business and it is helping them generate an income to help their families.
The 13 remaining got married and relocated to a different area where COFAPRI does not operate.
The clothes sewn are sold in a market in Munya, but most of the women sew on command.
In 2015, the organization purchased 10 sewing machines and related items for the sewing centre.
Sewing is helping the women to change their lives and those of their children.
Here is a testimony of Ciza Cilabarha whose life has changed greatly:
I started sewing here in January and we completed our training June. We graduated in front of public local leaders. Since then we started sewing. We remained part of COFAPRI centre where we work in teams. We are sewing clothes on command or we sew and sell at our market here. The money we are making is helping us in different ways. We are now getting food to eat three times a day, our children are going to school and we do not fear they will be kicked out because of fees, our clothes are now clean and those of our children. We are really happy for the change in our lives and in the lives of our families. In years to come, our community will be benefiting of our sewing activities here.
COFAPRI is also helping women through animal rearing, mostly pigs.
In this line, COFAPRI purchased 15 piglets for new members in different villages; each piglet cost $25 US.
All these piglets were distributed to women who keep them at their homes. These animals are helping the women in various ways.
When the animal produces, a new member receives a piglet.
After giving 2 piglets out (one to a member and another to the organisation), all the remaining are hers.
She can sell them and get some money to help her family.
The owner of the pig gets some of the piglets and gives one to COFAPRI.
Ms Zawadi Bintu admits her pig has been very helpful to her family and herself:
Since COFAPRI has come here I joined. I am among the first members who joined. I was given a pig and feeding it was not easy but I knew this is a real source of income for my family. The animal produced 8 piglets the first time and they helped me a lot. My children went to school and I was able to pay them school fees. I paid also hospital fare thanks to them. People can now give me a debt because they are sure I have means to pay back. I also help others when my pig has produced. The dung of these pigs help my cultivation go well and the harvest increase. That is really enough for me. I am happy for the moment compared to the past. Long life, COFAPRI and those who help us via this amazing organisation.
Thank you all!
Education and Child Sponsorship
COFAPRI has been sponsoring 96 children in primary school (one boy in secondary). This includes supplying school equipment to the children and payment of school fees. Each child pays 40 US$ per term. The sponsorship help the children, their parents and the teachers. Parents are no more harassed by the school because they do not pay the fees; the children feel secure as they can finish the school year without interruption due to lack of fees payment. The teachers also benefit as they know they will be paid on time. The children are scattered in different schools and each of them received 15 note books, 5 pens, 5 pencils and 3 erasers (cost of $ 25 US).
One parent whose children the organisation sponsors said:
I have no exact words to thank you for the good things your group is doing here, for our children and women. Look! Now you are helping my two daughters to go to school. This is something we never expected in this area. I have been suffering a lot to get their materials and fees, even food was not easy to find. But with the animals you are giving us and the business the women are doing, food is now easy to find.
I am very happy my children will stay in school with no fear they will be sent back home because they did not pay school fees.
The life of my children has changed and my family is feeling great help from you.
You also help big girls get the other stuffs they use when they are in periods. All these things, we are grateful for them. They are truly changing the lives of our children, and this make sus live in moral peace. We really have no words to thank you, and those who support us even if they do not know us. We will be praying for you many people help you so that you help all our children here.
Many thanks again!
A full financial report can be found here Annual Report 2015-2016 (PDF)