DR Congo Widows of War Get Empowered
Feb 26, 2020
DR Congo Widows of War Get Empowered
The unending wars the DR Congo has experienced have eventually caused many women and girls to be raped. In addition, some women got their husbands killed in the presence or not, of their family members and neighbors.
Killing husbands in the eyes of family members was a stratagem the militia used to spread fear among the people so that they do not react against their evils. As husbands have been killed, the women remained widows. They become now heads of families, though this is not allowed in rural DR Congo. Widows and women in general are never valued in community because this is a strong paternalistic society that considers women as second class people. Women are considered as objects.
Some widows of war were simply expelled from their late husbands’ families. Husbands’ families took them off with any property, yet they have their children. Most of these widows have large families made of more than five children though they have no job. Congolese Females Action for Promoting Rights and Development COFAPRI has been taking care of these widows in order to help them remake their lives and also get ways to support their children.
Building Self Reliance
Some COFAPRI members, who are war-widows, mould bricks to build their houses or to sell to get cash.
COFAPRI provides widows with tools, which they share - to help in the brick-making process, such as hoes, machetes, pickaxes and moulders. The youths of COFAPRI then help them to build. COFAPRI never teaches them to make bricks, they learn it from others. Widows are also involved in cultivation and crop-growing, for which COFAPRI also provides tools.
In addition, these women also brew traditional beer, and sell it or use it as incentive for community work. Members of the same village work in each villager's field in turn and they are given that beer as motivation. People traditionally use the beer when they meet, share ideas, help one another, and show unity.
The widows are also doing small business. They sell different items such as sugar, rice, beans, rice, soap, etc. Others are involved in learning a life skill; that is sewing. By sewing, these widows earn some money that is now helping them generate an income that can help their children. In this way, they can now rely on their capacity and their personal efforts for survival.
Widows and Culture
War widowed young women, as well as older widows, are numerous in the DR Congo. They have become the heads of their families and they need to work. If they do not work, their children cannot have anywhere to sleep or anything to eat. So they break the culture in order for their families to survive.
They say that 'if no husband is alive, can we wait for the one who does not exist anymore?'
The women whose husbands are alive never do such work. In the DR Congo, cultures have created gendered activities and work. There is work for men and work for women. A woman doing men's job is said to wish bad luck for her husband and this may cause her abuse in the home. Children are educated accordingly and so they grow knowing that activities are gendered.
Widows and Literacy
Since 2015, COFAPRI has initiated a programme to help women in basics in reading and writing. The women are very motivated and they believe this process will help them a lot in the future.
They are learning this programme in order to start sewing activities. If they do not know basics in reading and writing, they cannot sew. Those who can read and write are already involved in sewing programme.
These basics can also help the women to get and send written messages to relatives and friends, and even vote for their choice in case there are elections.