Women for Women International

Women for Women International provides women survivors of war, civil strife and other conflicts with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency, thereby promoting viable civil societies.
Sep 28, 2009

Julienne's Story

Julienne is a successful soap-maker in Bukavu and works as a vocational skills trainer for Women for Women International-DRC. She is an internally displaced person, originally from Walungu territory, forced to move when violence from roving militias threatened her safety and that of her family. She joined the WfWI-DRC program as a participant in 2006 and since then has built a successful soap-making business that allows her to save $50 each month after covering her family’s expenses. She was recently hired by WfWI-DRC to train other program participants in soap-making. Everyone says that Julienne appears to have grown younger in the past three years.

Julienne is a 53-year-old mother of seven. She and her husband live in Bukavu with their two daughters and five sons. Since 2006, Julienne has worked within the Women for Women program to rebuild her life after being displaced due to violence in her home territory of Walungu. Today she works for Women for Women International-DRC (WfWI-DRC) as a vocational skills trainer in soap-making. Hers is a story of success and overcoming great obstacles to become the self-sufficient provider for her family she is today.

Julienne and her family are originally from a farming village in Walungu territory located south of Bukavu. Walungu and the surrounding South Kivu have been hit especially hard by violence, especially sexual violence against women, brought on by armed militias roving Eastern DRC. As violence and insecurity persisted, Julienne and her husband fled Walungu and moved to Bukavu. Unable to find work, her husband was forced to continue farming in his home village and travel between Walungu and Bukavu for his safety. This placed an enormous burden on Julienne. Times were hard and money was scarce. Julienne lived in fear for her husband’s life. She operated a small business selling onions, palm oil and peanuts at the Mulungulungu, Panzi market with a capital of only $5. She was able to maintain at least one meal per day, but the strain was great as she attempted to put all her children through school.

In February 2006, Julienne enrolled in the Women for Women International-DRC (WfWI-DRC) program where she received training in small business development. She learned the value of working as a team with her sisters in the WfWI-DRC program, who devised a scheme to invest $5 of their sponsorship funds in each other’s businesses, providing a lump-sum of $80 to each woman on rotation. This investment allowed her to build her small business and meet other household needs. She invested some of the money in a Culinary Arts training program, for which she received a Program Attendance Certificate with distinction as one of the best students in her class. She used the training to teach her daughter the culinary skills she learned, adding value to her home and investing in her daughter’s future.

After her first year with Women for Women, Julienne made the decision to abandon her small business to pursue a more economically-feasible option. Having received vocational skills training in soap-making to diversify her income generation, she reached out to a friend who helped her to find customers for her soap-making business. Eventually, Julienne secured the patronage of the Saint Etienne School which she now supplies twice a month with her soaps. She’s making $10 per sale which is enough to feed her family and send her kids to school.

Last year, a position opened up as a Soap-Making Trainer with WfWI-DRC. An experienced soap-maker who understood the value of working as a group with other Congolese women, Julienne was motivated to apply for the position and was hired by Women for Women in July 2008. Proud of her achievement, Julienne said, “I am gaining my life without a lot of difficulties; I have a salary which comes every month.”

Every month Julienne is able to put $50 into savings after covering all of her family’s needs. This has helped her purchase equipment to expand and improve her business. She is well-respected by her family and community. Julienne’s health has improved too – her self-confidence shines through her physical self. Her face appears to have grown younger in the past three years!

Sep 28, 2009

Viviane's Story

Viviane is a skills trainer for WfWI-DRC. She has been making soap since 2003, and a soap trainer for WfWI since 2005. In that time she has trained over 1,000 women many of whom have gone on to become teachers themselves or open successful businesses producing soap. Once forced to discontinue her education after working hard to get to university, Viviane has become a great success and single-handedly supports her six children, all of whom are in school, while continuing as a trainer and running her own soap-making business.

Viviane Mahongole Barhumvanya works with Women for Women International-DRC training women to make soap. Since 2005, Viviane has trained over 1,000 of WfWI-DRC’s participants to become skilled soap makers. Some of the women Viviane has trained have gone on to become trainers themselves. Many others have been hired by production companies or opened small businesses of their own producing and selling soap.

Viviane is a good teacher. She’s dedicated to the position as evidenced by her four-year long commitment to training WfWI-DRC participants. In addition to her training, Viviane is herself a skilled soap maker and runs a soap-making business out of her home, supplying soap to 50-some business groups.

Viviane pursued her education at a young age. She graduated from elementary school in Kivu and secondary school in Bukavu. She went on to university at the Rural Development College, but her financial situation unfortunately prevented her from finishing. Instead, Viviane pursued soap making to earn a stable income. Becoming a teacher has been a rewarding experience. A single mother of six children, she encourages her children and wants to provide them with the best education. Her oldest daughter is in her first year of university, and her second recently graduated from high school. Her younger children, three sons and one daughter, are all still in high school. Education for all her children, especially her daughters, is one of Viviane’s most important goals in life.

Over the years, Viviane’s dedication to her students and work as a trainer has earned her the utmost respect of her superiors, and she is rewarded with greater responsibility. “…[O]ur department leaders…involve me in the analysis and designing of training modules. My unit gives me additional tasks related to the management of the solidarity small cash box recently created in our department.” She’s proud of all that she has accomplished, and all that her students are accomplishing each day. This year, Viviane and twenty other women from WfWI-DRC were accepted into a business and management training program sponsored by Goldman Sachs and taught by instructors from the University of Dar es Salaam. Once forced to leave school when it became too expensive, Viviane is thrilled now that she will be able to continue her education as part of this program. She is proud of her achievements, and is just one more example of the positive, multiplied change that occurs when women are empowered to become business-women and teachers.

Aug 12, 2009

Zainab Salbi Discusses Rape in Congo with Jim Lehrer of PBS: The News Hour

On Tuesday, August 11, Women for Women International Founder and CEO Zainab Salbi sat down to speak with Jim Lehrer of PBS: The News Hour about the realities facing women living in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

She spoke about the daily struggles faced by Congolese women, saying that "In Congo, we have hundreds of thousands of women who are taken as sexual slaves, where they are raped as frequently as possible by rebel and soldiers and where they are forced to clean and cook and carry their ammunition and food for free, or as a slave."

To read more about Salbi's analysis of Congo and to read how she envisions the way forward, please enjoy the following link: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/africa/july-dec09/congo2_08-11.html

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