Women for Women International

In countries affected by conflict and war, Women for Women International supports the most marginalized women to earn and save money, improve health and well-being, influence decisions in their home and community, and connect to networks for support. By utilizing skills, knowledge, and resources, she is able to create sustainable change for herself, her family, and community.
Jan 4, 2013

Stronger Women, Stronger Nations: DR Congo Report

Basically literacy training is only a small part of WfWI's year long holistic training program for participants in DR Congo. Read below for exerpts from our Stronger Women, Stronger Nations report on the successes of program participants and the challenges they continue to face.

For the women of eastern DR Congo, a conflict more deadly than any since World War II has brought years of displacement, impoverishment and a cruel campaign of sexual violence as a tool of war that continues unabated today. The conflict has:

  • Contributed to the deaths of more than 5 million people
  • Left 2 million more displaced and
  • Resulted in more than 1,000 women and girls raped each month in some areas.

In policy discussions and news headlines, we rarely hear of the stories of these women–the real heroes in the daily struggle to keep families safe and children fed. Instead, we often hear discussions about the frontlines of war, about military strategies and troop numbers, without acknowledging that real life still goes on during war.

The Stronger Women, Stronger Nations: DR Congo Report

The stories of WfWI - DR Congo participants underline the importance of women’s full inclusion in securing peace and development. Their recommendations call on their government and the international community to take leadership in ending nearly two decades of conflict that has decimated women’s bodies and entire communities, so that the work building a more peaceful and prosperous country can begin.

Their tales of survival and perseverance are a searing case study in the importance of the three P’s, the core tenets of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) on women, peace and security:

  • Prevention of conflict
  • Protection of women and girls
  • Participation by women in peace processes

View Stronger Women, Stronger Nations: DR Congo report highlights below, or read the full report to take a deeper look into Africa’s deadliest conflict through the eyes of the Congolese women.

Violence and Insecurity

Since 2004, Women for Women International-DR Congo has helped more than 58,000 Congolese women survivors of war and conflict.

The women we spoke with point to rampant violence and insecurity as major impediments to their physical and mental health, and to the survival of themselves and their families. Nearly half fear working outside their homes and believe insecurity is the worst economic problem facing their communities.

When asked what needs to be done to improve the situation, women say they need:

  • Increased security so that they can leave their homes to work and so that their children can attend school and enjoy community life.
  • Leaders to tackle the culture of impunity where perpetrators of sexual violence roam free in the country.
  • Urgent measures to protect them from the violence perpetrated by the many dangerous and shifting eastern DR Congo militarized groups.

Livelihoods and Education

Due to husbands’ deaths, displacement or rejection of victims of sexual violence, Congolese women are increasingly called upon to serve as primary breadwinners and heads of households. Yet, they are trapped in a double bind in which they cannot leave their homes to trade in markets and farm in fields for fear of attacks.

In the context of the horrific violence in eastern DR Congo, the importance of investing in women’s livelihoods programs is often overlooked. Yet, data from the survey demonstrated the importance of livelihood in improving women’s lives. Women who earn even a small income see dividends in their physical and mental health, nutrition and wellbeing of their families:

  • Of the women who earn $1 a day, less than 30% eat two meals a day. This number increases to more than 50% among those who earn more.
  • Women who earn more are also more likely to save for their future, promoting stability and improving the quality of life for women and their families.
  • Women also point to livelihoods as helpful in preventing violence: “Husbands rarely find reasons for beating their wives when they return home to some warm food and a clean house, a task that becomes easy when wives are earning,” one focus group participant shared.
  • Women emphasized the need for targeted economic development programs that help women, such as job-skills training with micro loans to support their economic, physical and mental well-being.

Health and Well Being

Exposure to prolonged violence and poverty has resulted in one of the worst health indicators in the world. Women still die from childbirth and easily-preventable, pregnancy-related complications like obstetric fistula. The region is also home to a less-recognized yet urgent mental-health epidemic: for instance, of the women surveyed who make less than $1 per day, 70% think of hurting themselves.

Women demand concrete, practical recommendations for improving the severely inadequate health services sector. They want free, affordable and accessible healthcare. For the future, they want an increased focus on building capacity through more technical training facilities.

Participation and Decision-Making

Women in our programs report more rights awareness and higher rates of happiness, family decision-making, physical and emotional health and living conditions compared to women who have not participated in our programs. They also earn 40% more money, suggesting the power of group participation and skills-building opportunities for women.

When asked about what’s important, women highlight the role of rights awareness in women’s empowerment. Without adequate knowledge and resources, women cannot demand for their rights and for greater government accountability.

Jan 4, 2013

Meet WfWI - Afghanistan Graduate Zia

Zia Gul is a 27 year old mother of four children; three sons and one daughter. Her husband works as Ragman. Zia Gul was uneducated and a housewife but through WFWI was offered the unique opportunity to learn about women rights, health, business, and the rights of children from WWI training programs. WWI introduced Zia Gul to Safi Apparel Corporation and now Zia Gul is busy as a tailor, earning 65 dollars a month. Zia Gul is happy to now economically support her family. She has faced many difficulties in her life but now feels relieved because of the sustainable income Safi Company awards her every month. She hopes that WWI will expand their activities so more women can be helped. Zia Gul thanks Women for Women International and says "Allah keeps Women for Women International successful so that more and more women of Afghanistan can be helped in the right way."

Dec 27, 2012

The Importance of Investing in Women

The training WfWI provides to participants in South Sudan does so much more than allow them to just open a bakery. Read on for a note from a WfWI staff member about the importance of investing in women and how much of an impact it can have on families and communities.

Women in Sudan are faced with extreme challenges. Female illiteracy rate hovers at 90%, only 36% of girls in Sudan are enrolled in primary school. Early marriage is widespread and the maternal death rate is among the highest in the world. 

For the women that we serve, expectations are minimal – women desire access to clean water, land, and education for their children. Women want security, protection and the ability to cultivate crops. What the elections offer is an opportunity to create a supportive environment to enable the entrepreneurial development of the people. The women and the people of Sudan are hungry for change. Change for them means food, education, protection and security.

We place so much hope in governments and invest so many resources into them--as we should--but we often forget to do the same with the people, especially with women. To build strong nations, we need to invest in women. Good governance benefits significantly from an engaged and active citizenship. As citizens, women cannot be engaged and active if they are hungry, powerless and vulnerable. So what Sudan needs, both now and after the upcoming elections, is investment. We need to invest in developing Sudan’s women by supporting their skill-building, which will in turn encourage the nation’s economic development.

Women, in the context of Sudan, have suffered severely and continue to suffer today. We need to support them and their ongoing efforts to ensure the progress of Sudan as a whole. Yes, one of the soundest strategy is the development of Sudan’s most marginalized citizens, women and children. The Sudanese people crave deliverables that will translate into real progress and development.

Supporting women will contribute to the foundation of a strong and dynamic civil society, from economic development and to the creation of education and infrastructure. We can build and strengthen the country’s women and its vulnerable population as whole.

Investments from the international community intended to encourage the development of Sudan through the empowerment of women protect the interests of the majority of the population. It is not a matter of personal gain. Women are already actively involved in rebuilding the country through the family and the community, but they lack the necessary resources and skills. With proper investment, the women of Sudan can be a driving force in rebuilding the devastated and war-torn. We need to invest in Sudan’s women. 

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