Great Lakes Restoration's Projects    

Bukavu Action Team | Six Million Pennies | Pigs for Peace | NCH | Hospital Rehabilitation
Orphans of War | Workshop Schools | Women's Empowerment | Buildings for Peace | AICR
HIV Infected Children | Stadium for Peace Building

Education and Empowerment of Young Women in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

There is an African proverb which holds that to educate a woman is to educate the nation.  Nonetheless, the young women of the eastern DRC historically have been culturally excluded from meaningful participation in their society because of lack of adequate education or job related skills. In addition thousands have become victims of the constant warfare over the last fifteen (15) years which has been characterized by unrelenting sexual violence against women. These victims suffer from the additional cultural hardships imposed by a society which isolates and ignores the victims of sexual assault. They are, in effect, abandoned by the society in which they live.

The primary goal of this project is to prepare these young women for leadership roles in building the peace in the region in the new millennium. A key component of our program is specifically to address the needs of those teenage girls defined as vulnerable: orphans, refugees, victims of poverty, sexual violence and/or disease such as HIV/AIDS. Ultimately, it is important to recognize that not only must the needs of the vulnerable be addressed, but that all women be empowered. Empowerment is not only the path to reintegration into society of thousands of vulnerable teenage girls but, also the prevention of the sexual violence and victimization of women which has been so commonplace in the DRC of the recent past. As such it is means to nurture and sustain the fragile, nascent peace now emerging in the Great Lakes region.

As a first step, three hundred (300) young women from ages ten (10) to eighteen (18) years old have been identified as the initial focus of this project. They suffer from various vulnerabilities; in many cases from multiple vulnerabilities. Some are orphans. Some are victims of disease; the most prominent being HIV/AIDS and malaria. Many are refugees or the victims of sexual violence. Almost all live in poverty and suffer from malnourishment.  It is anticipated that this number will increase quickly as the identification process continues, given the prevalence of orphaned or abandoned young women in the post-conflict eastern DRC. This project begins a collaborative effort with existing NGOs in the area, and the national and provincial governments of the DRC to remedy the effects of and prevent gender based violence, illiteracy, and poverty.

Goals of the Project:

  • Assist these vulnerable girls, to obtain an education suitable to their talents and abilities,
    by matching them with overseas sponsors who would academically “adopt” them on an
    individual basis;
  • Equip these young women for leadership roles in building the peace in the region through appropriate curriculums that emphasize conflict resolution and culturally appropriate gender equity models, especially for the victims of sexual violence;
  • Provide for the basic needs of life (food and water, secure shelter, clothing and health care)
    for the young women enrolled in the project; and
  • Promote the economic empowerment of these young women through vocational training programs; support for small business activity; micro finance/credit activity; and, scholarships funding for higher education, to name a few examples.