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Author Izzy Clark
Digital Content Producer, Women for Women International – UK
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Celebrating Graduation Day in the Democratic Republic of Congo

It’s the season of exam results and school breaking up in the UK – and July was also graduation time for many of the women we serve in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Last month saw ceremonies and celebrations across several communities in South Kivu, eastern DRC, where 600 women (24 training groups) graduated from our 12-month social and economic empowerment programme. These groups were part of a 5-year project funded by The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Funding Leadership and Opportunities for Women (FLOW) programme – which aims to strengthen marginalised women’s self-reliance and tackle violence. 

Graduation in Mumosho, DRC
A group of our DRC graduates. Photo: Ryan Carter
For our programme graduates, it was a chance to reflect on their journey and share their achievements with their classmates, families and wider communities. The audience also included some VIP guests, including local leaders, provincial government representatives and the Minister of Gender.

But the spotlight was firmly on the women and their success stories. Amidst the speeches, singing and dancing, we asked a few of them to share what they would take away from their year of training, and what the experience had meant for them.

Since enrolling in the training programme, I’ve discovered so much and I value myself in my family and in my community… I also understood my rights.

Muderhwa Ntakwinja Aimerance

With the knowledge I gained during the programme, I discovered a leader within myself - able to defend my rights before members of my community, even in front of authorities. Now I am seen by other women as a leader.

Kalimurhima Ndamuso Bahati

Today, I am a very proud woman… My husband does not treat me like a burden anymore, he respects me. Coming together with other women in the village has made me stronger in everything I do.

Rondo Magumu Nyabuguma
Staff member Yvette distributes the cash in front of the group.
Women for Women International staff member, Yvette, distributes the cash in front of the group. Group members check the bills to make sure they are usable and confirm that each woman has received her payment. Photo: Ryan Carter

The monthly training stipend

During the graduation in Mumosho, the women received their last stipend payment after the ceremony

The monthly training stipend (the equivalent of around $10) is a key part of the programme – it’s a vital step for women who have often been excluded from earning income and making decisions on how money is spent. Many women save up their stipends to help them purchase resources to establish their businesses, as well as to help cover their household needs while in training.

Thanks to my wife's participation in the Women for Women International programme, we managed to buy a field and start a small business.

Husband of DRC programme participant

After taking part in the training module on women's rights and decision-making, I realised that I had the same rights as my brothers to inherit our parents’ property and now I have my own land.

Bashige Bulangalire Bahati

Our Impact

Recent programme data from DRC – collected through participant surveys – shows the impact of our training in measurable terms: women reported increasing their monthly earnings from an average of $16.72 at enrollment to $49.70 at graduation, and again to $60 one year after the programme. And at graduation, 11% of participants reported running for a leadership position in their communities, while 62% run one year after completing the programme.

We’re profoundly grateful to The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their transformative investment in the women we serve in the DRC.

As this cohort of 600 women moves on to the next phase of their journey, there are many more women waiting for an opportunity to build self-reliance and create change for themselves and their communities.

 

Many other families live in poverty in our community. We hope that in the future they will also benefit from the programme... I hope it continues forever.

Husband of DRC programme participant
Programme participants in Mumosho, DRC
Sponsor now to be a part of more graduate success stories, like those of Aimerance, Nyabuguma and Bahati. Photo: Ryan Carte

Help us reach our goal

We’re aiming to enroll another 400 women in our programme in the DRC before the end of the year

We desperately need more sponsors to help fund their training. Could you sponsor a woman through our training programme over the next 12 months, and give her a life-changing opportunity?

*These images are from a previous graduation ceremony in one of the communities funded by the Dutch Government’s FLOW programme. They are being used to represent the women quoted in this article, who were interviewed at their graduation in July 2018.

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