July 19, 2018 by Katrina Leclerc*
Wivine, Esther, Anitha, Nadine, Immaculée, and Ruth collect discarded tires on weekends. They make furniture out of these discarded tires and sell them for a small profit around their city of Goma. These young women are members of the Girl Ambassadors for Peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who started small businesses to augment their family income or pay for their school expenses. On July 5 to 7, 2018, the young women attended an entrepreneurship and job readiness workshop facilitated by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) in partnership with the Synergie des femmes pour les victimes des violences sexuelles (Synergie of Women for Victims of Sexual Violence – SFVS).
The workshop is part of the women’s economic empowerment project that GNWP and SFVS are implementing in North Kivu, DRC. Under this project, members of the Girl Ambassadors for Peace (GA4P) started small businesses such as furniture making, jewelry and accessories production, growing and selling vegetables, and rabbit raising. In most of their businesses, the GA4P members work with local populations to contribute to income generation within their own communities.
Members of the GA4P and GNWP and SFVS also met with provincial ministers in North Kivu and the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Gender in Kinshasa to solicit support for the young women’s economic projects. They requested support for product development and marketing as well as additional capital. The Ministry of Gender said they can provide marketing support but not capital. The GA4P members also informed the provincial ministers about the collection of taxes by people who claim to represent the provincial government but do not issue receipts. However, the government officials did not respond to this issue.
In addition to the entrepreneurship and job readiness workshop, GNWP also facilitated a session on organizational management. The session was aimed at enhancing the GA4P members’ capacities to manage their own projects and campaigns.
Wivine and her friends are among the GA4P members who participated in the entrepreneurship, job readiness and organizational management workshops. Previously, they have also attended training on leadership and various discussions on sexual and gender-based violence. By enhancing their leadership capacities and giving them economic opportunities, these young Congolese women have become better equipped to assert their rights and denounce sexual and gender-based violence.
Wivine, the leader of the group working on recycled tires emphasizes that young women need to show leadership, to be truly empowered. Wivine adds: “We cannot achieve peace without re-defining what it means to be a leader; taking on leadership positions to serve our communities; and, prevent sexual and gender-based violence.”
GNWP established the GA4P program to promote young women’s leadership and participation in conflict prevention, peacebuilding, sustaining peace, and decision-making at all levels—beginning in local communities. It is based on the Localization of Resolution 1325 that GNWP implements in various countries around the world. The GA4P program is operational in DRC, South Sudan, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
The United Methodist Women supports the young women’s economic empowerment project in DRC.
*Katrina Leclerc is the Coordinator of GNWP’s Girl Ambassadors for Peace program in DRC and South Sudan.
For more on the Girl Ambassadors for Peace program, please visit: gnwp.org/program/girl-ambassadors-for-peace/