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!