Inspiring Hope in Congo

“I am proud of what I’ve been able to do and who I’ve become.”

                                          – Nabintu, age 80, Bukavu, DRC

A quick web search of the keywords “women” and “DRC” will return for you a list in which four out of every five articles speak to the occurrence of rape and sexual violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  A closer look will reveal the fact that the DRC is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman.

This story, however, is not one of danger, but one of hope.  Hope as expressed by Nabintu, who at 80 years old has started her own business selling beans and other foodstuff in one of Bukavu’s town markets.  Nabintu’s transformation was facilitated by a $50 loan she accessed from Union des Femmes pour la Paix et la Promotion Sociale (UFPPS) – Union of Women for Peace and Social Promotion – with support from Episcopal Relief & Development.

Nabintu is originally from a small village called Kanyola, north of Bukavu, in the province of South Kivu.  For the last 16 years Kanyola, like many villages throughout eastern Congo, has been the site of chronic instability, armed conflict and civilian massacres.  In 2004, Nabintu lost six members of her family in one such massacre. Narrowly escaping herself, she took refugee in Bukavu town, where she also found treatment for her hands, which militia had tried to hack off. For six years thereafter, Nabintu survived by begging in Bukavu’s streets and markets.

Then one day, some women from the Anglican Church approached her.  While not Anglican herself, Nabintu thought these women might provide something that could help her.  She never thought, however, that what she would get would be a restoration of her self-worth.

UFPPS is an ecumenical association launched by the women and members of the Mothers’ Union of the Anglican Church in Congo. The organization was founded in 2003 by Mugisa Isingoma, wife of the Most Rev. Isingoma Kahwa Henri, the current Archbishop of the Province of the Anglican Church in Congo (PEAC). UFPPS seeks to unite women from all churches in promoting, valuing and encouraging each other to be messengers of peace and active participants in development.  In 2011, UFPPS launched new branches in the Dioceses of Bukavu and North Kivu, bringing to the regions not only a renewed spirit of solidarity among church women, but also practical actions for transforming their lives.

With the support of Episcopal Relief & Development, one such action was the initiation of savings and  revolving loan groups. In just the last eight months, the women of UFPPS have mobilized and trained 29 women’s groups.  Through these groups, 274 women have already accessed loans to either start or grow their businesses – and, like Nabintu, 273 other women have also found new self-esteem and hope.

“I am proud of what I’ve been able to do and who I’ve become.” Nabintu’s simple statement expresses the power of self-sufficiency in transforming lives.


Tammi Mott is a Program Officer with Episcopal Relief & Development.

Photos: Top – Nabintu with her loan repayment book. Bottom – Faida, another UFPPS member, is also a first-time business owner. With a loan of $100, she started her own kiosk (roadside store) to sell soap, sugar and salt.