Safe Spaces Crucial for Women’s Self-Reliance in Rural DR Congo
Increased security helps women become self-reliant and less financially dependent on their husbands. This improves the situation for the whole family and also means the women are less vulnerable to abuse.
By Mugisho Ndabuli Theophile, Founder/Exec. Director, COFAPRI
In a rural home of DR Congo, if the woman does not have any financial income herself, she becomes a mere consumer of what the husband has produced, and this often results in abuse by the husband. If she can generate her own income, she has some power and self-protection.
Members of Congolese Females Action for Promoting Rights and Development (COFAPRI) are committed to building a real space where they can nurture their personal and economic self-reliance. They have everything they need for self-reliance, except lasting peace in their villages. Moving ahead with the commitment of making their villages a hub of development depends on knowledge and positive experiences. These women are confident they can be the pillars of their communities, and that they are able to do something astounding if discriminatory traditions and economic abuses do not hinder them, and if they are offered a peaceful space to do so.
COFAPRI is very much involved in helping the women and children in the villages of eastern DR Congo to develop. The certain and sure way this is achieved is simply through helping the children to get school education, and involving the women in income-generating activities.
The task has never been easy, however, since there are a lot of challenges, mostly relating to insecurity and economic abuse in the homes. Nothing sustainable can be really achieved when there is a lot of insecurity and economic abuse. People may start doing something sustainable, but all of a sudden everything tumbles down. When people run away, the fighters pillage everything.
All the women who are working with COFAPRI have the same view. They recognise that COFAPRI is working hard and taking risks to boost their lives and is dreaming of making them autonomous in an economic way. It is in this vein that they appreciate the wonderful initiatives that are now helping them and their children.
“COFAPRI remains a unique stream that feeds our thoughts in different ways. They are pushing hard to make sure all of us in our villages here around are on the same track. We have been shown the way; a good way paved with success ahead as we move forward.
We are involved in different activities that never existed here before, and all of us, with no exception, are motivated to join for free. We strongly appreciate the courage of the creators of COFAPRI as they personally meet us here in our remote areas to share with us ideas and seek, with us, ways to move on. They live far away, but never mind the insecurity here and the long ways they walk. Their vision gives us hope for opening a huge and inclusive space for self-reliance.
If our children can now go to school and we gain some cash; that is what has always been our dream. This revives our hope that we had lost.”
Beata M’Luhukula, COFAPRI member.
These women truly need to remake their lives and to think big for a better future. No better future will ever be guaranteed if these rural women and their children are being discriminated against and abused in their families. They need to feed from the ‘sweat of their brows’ – they have brains and arms that can work provided the environment is conducive. Families should be the source of hope and support for their members. If these values are hindered at the family level, everything scrambles, and lives fall in danger.
“In the past I used to totally ask for everything from my husband. Sometimes he could give me, but most times he would not even if he had what I was asking for. This has made me think twice. Since I joined COFAPRI my children are no more kicked out of school because I did not pay for fees. I no more disturb my husband who is not willing to help me and the children.
Today. things have changed; I am dependent on myself. I am sewing and I gain something to feed the whole family. My two children are going to school and they get school materials from COFAPRI. I believe they now understand the family [not the father] is supporting them. They can understand what being self-dependent means.”
Gurhahoza M’ Mbone, COFAPRI member.
The women in the villages of DR Congo are not fighting for self-reliance in order to break family unity and harmony. They want financial independence in order to feed their families adequately and have all their children get school education. Men who are discriminative will never appreciate this. The women believe that becoming financially self-dependent can be a great help to family and community development.
What a woman produces at the family level is for the whole family, but what a man produces, sometimes is not. This is the case with rural women in the DR Congo; some of their husbands are never willing to help them even if they have the means. This often causes economic abuse in the home. But when the woman produces, she even supports the careless husband, and the latter has no more power to abuse her.
“My husband has a wide land where he pays people to farm for him, and I also work with them on the same farm on daily basis. He does not trust the money with me to pay them. I never know how much they are paid. When harvest time comes, I am excluded from the process and again I cannot know how much was sold from the crops.
Sometimes he tells me abusive words because I am asking him about his money. This has often rebelled me, and so I decided to think twice. I joined COFAPRI who have now helped me to learn sewing and I am gaining something helpful for myself and the whole family. Despite what I went through, I am also now supporting my husband in the farming though I do not know where the money he used to pay the people to help him is going for the moment.”
Maria M’ Luhizo
The way is still long, and the women need more support in order to create a more sustainable space for their economic self-reliance. If a woman depends on herself financially, the whole family benefits from it.
However, if she depends on the husband economically, this impedes family development, and this is what COFAPRI is addressing. It would be better if the woman produces, as this can reduce economic abuse and boosts the woman and family’s development.
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