Since almost 1994, the province of Nyiragongo in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo has been the centre of war and armed conflict which has had dramatic consequences on the lives of community members. The conflict has caused the destruction of places that provided employment; 73% of the population in the region live in economic poverty, the highest in the country. Women have been the most affected; 61.2% of women live below the poverty line against 51.3% of men and yet woman are expected to provide the daily food for the family. The effects of the conflict have been exasperated by May 2021 volcanic eruption of Mount Nyiragongo and Covid19.
One of our partners, Action des Volontaires Pour La Paix et Développement Intégral (AVPDI) is one the ground initiating projects to help the women in the area. AVPDI is a not for profit organisation established in 2011 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their core aim is to relieve the suffering in the North Kivu province which has been ravished by war.
AVPDI consulted with 150 women in the community in 2019 to discuss what would help them to earn a living, support their families, lift their self-esteem and feel like a valuable member of the community. The women expressed a desire to learn to sew and other textile skills which would enable them to clothe their children and start a small business to support themselves and their households. They also felt learning to sew with other women would give them a supportive network which would also increase their self-esteem and help them feel like a part of the community. Many of the women felt alienated from the community as they were victims of rape during the conflict and subsequently rejected by the community.
Based on the needs of the women, SSAP and AVDPI co-produced a project – One Stitch at a Time. Funding for the project was generously provided by The Souter Charitable Trust. AVDPI has rented a centre and equipped it with 25 sewing machines, material and sewing accessories. During the first 6 months, 50 women will learn how to make a variety of garments for men, women and children. In addition, AVDPI staff and volunteers which include nurses and psychologists will provide psychosocial and health support as needed. AVDI also has expertise in business management and accountancy and will provide training to help the women set up and run a business.
Being able to keep the sewing centre open and provide more training to more women in the community was an important consideration in the project design. After the 6 months of training, the women will be able to use the machines at the centre for their business for a nominal fee until they are able to purchase their own equipment. This small fee will pay the running costs of the centre and for a trainer for future courses.