By Mugisho N. Theophile, Founder/Exec. Director of COFAPRI, October 2013
Teaching Sewing and Knitting Skills to Empower Survivors
‘Sharing knowledge with rural women and girls is a great help to them; it empowers them and they feel we are close to them – they are not alone as someone cares about them. If I am helping someone with cash, this is not as important as teaching them how to get that cash.
This is a long lasting support through which they can make their own life and so support their own families.’
Bahati Valerie, Co-founder and Executive Secretary of COFAPRI
Bahati Valerie has set off for DR Congo, to make a follow-up on the sewing centres and to see how the children are getting along with their school education.
Just as she did with the sewing, she is learning some knitting skills which she will be sharing with COFAPRI women and girls.
This past August, Bahati visited COFAPRI women and girls in their respective villages in the DRC. The aim of her travel was to open two sewing centres in the villages of Kalango and Cibimbi, where the village grassroots women and girls are learning sewing skills.
She also gave school materials to children and paid some school fees for the children for the school year 2013 and 2014, with funds donated from supporters and well-wishers.
On the same occasion, Bahati was introduced to new members, among whom are raped women.
The village women and girls were very much appreciative of the support Bahati brought to them and to their children and their joy was immense:
“We don’t know what to say; This is really a surprise. Our children will sing and dance for these materials. We also are thankful as we’ll be sewing and get some cash; others will learn sewing skills.”
“The sewing centre will be great. This is a wonderful action you have done to us. We’ll never forget this; it will help me and everyone here. I will keep safely the machines because they will help all of us.”
“With these machines, we will learn a lot of things, we can now gain money from the activities; we’ll make a lot of things. They will help us develop and become strong women. Now we have a good occupation; we’ll be busy and this is good.”
In the minds of these women and girls, these sewing centres are very helpful for them. They will learn new skills and they will gain some cash from the items they will have sewn. By working in teams, they can also exchange ideas on different issues pertaining to violence, nonviolence, and living in harmony in their families; in brief, they can learn a lot in groups.
COFAPRI would like to set up more sewing centres for all its members in different villages.
More Children Can Attend School!
COFAPRI started with the meager funding from my wife, Bahati, and myself whereby we supported the school education of six young girls in primary school.
Recently, thanks to the donations from our friends and supporters who understand the importance and the objectives of COFAPRI, we have been able to pay school materials and fees for term one, school year 2013/2014, for 23 children, boys and girls this time.
This is really a great advancement in the area of education.
Born to Survivors of Rape and Violence
The majority of the children under our school sponsorship are children born to raped mothers and others are those who are victims of domestic violence in the form of discriminating against them from going to school. Very few of them are orphans and others have parents, but they are very poor and it's difficult for them to support the education of their children.
The parents of these children and the children themselves were very happy with this assistance:
"My child will go to school like others. Thank you; thank you. You pay fees for my kid, give him school materials….I don’t know what to say. Thank you is not enough but thanks a lot."
"I will do my best in school and get good marks; thank you COFAPRI for the books, pens, erasers and ruler. I was having problems before to get money to pay but now, Koko bwenene COFAPRI (thank you very much). I say again and again thanks a lot and God bless you."
"God continue to bless you. You are a good parent; I thank you for all these materials and the school fees you’ve paid for me. My joy is great today for this."
COFAPRI Featured in Video Shown at the UN in Geneva
Bahati did not forget to talk about Safe World for Women who hosts us on their website and with whom we collaborate directly as Field Partners in DR Congo.
She also informed the members about the Katerva Awards that were won by Safe World for Women this year and presented at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland on 2nd July, 2013.
COFAPRI was featured in the Safe World video shown during the awards event:
Livi Nkanga's Appeal
On the occasion, Bahati also told the members Livi Nkanga’s determination to to support COFAPRI women and girls with the funds she raised from an appeal on her birthday. Livi is a DRC native currently attending university in the state of Michigan, in the USA.
"We thank very much the women and men who helped in this achievement. We thank Livi Nkanga for thinking of us, God bless her and the woman who brought her to this world. This award is great even if we do not know how it looks like, we are sure it means something important for all of us. It indicates we are doing big steps, we are being heard and we are breaking violence on women."
"Katerva, Safe World for Women, and COFAPRI thank you. You are our pride, you are making us move from darkness and now we can see the light. This reward is for all women and our daughters and the men who are helping us to be heard."
"Look, this wonderful girl called Livi does not know us but she’s doing what she can to get people to help us. We don’t know her and she does not know us but she is fighting for us. She is our good daughter; God bless her and her family. She is now doing that because COFAPRI met her. We are sure her funds will reach us when God wants.
Yoooooo diii (oh God), she is incredible. If I could see her I could kiss her. Tell her we love her and thank you to her."
"If today all these people, like this extraordinary Livi and others, who do not know us want to help us, it means they love us. This girl who is a good creature of God, oh my God bless her where she is. These people are good and caring; they send us support and so they respond to our needs.
Tell them thank you to them and thanks to you whom we see; you always sacrifice your family and your husband to be among us and today to bring us our donations. God bless you all. You are beautiful."
"Livi is an unbelievable girl. Can you imagine fighting for someone you have never seen? She trusts our leaders and us. We want her to come here and to show her what we are doing to help ourselves so that she can get more motivated to help us."
A Long-term Investment
It is important to remember that after Bahati had given school material to the children who were present, many more came to seek assistance as well. There were around 70; she put them on her list and she promised them that next time, it will be their turn.
Educating the youth is a kind of long term investment that is helpful for the individual, the family, the community, and the nation.