Sewing-skills-DRCBahati Valerie, co-founder of COFAPRI, teaching sewing skills to rural DRC women. Photo: COFAPRI

By Mugisho Ndabuli Theophile, Founder/Executive Director, COFAPRI - May 2013

A Sewing Centre for Sustainability and Livelihood

COFAPRI co-founder Bahati has taken some sewing courses and she has already shared her knowledge and skills with some members in several villages.

Among the many projects COFAPRI must carry out in order to assist women and girls who were raped, as well those who suffer domestic violence together with their children, there is the setting up of a sewing centre for these victims.

The sewing centre is to start in the next few weeks. These members whom Bahati has taught, in their turn, will teach others.

Our Commitment to Children

COFAPRI is also committed to assisting more children in school; up to now, we have been able to provide school materials and fees to three young girls who were born from raped mothers.

All of them are orphans.

Related article: Supporting Children Born of Conflict Rape in DRC

COFAPRI women understand the importance of education: their views are really encouraging and they do need support.

Positive opinions should not be neglected, but rather sought to be implemented.

“By educating our children, COFAPRI will have prepared them for a better future; we have to help you –  COFAPRI –  in order to motivate them to go to school and so they can develop the whole nation in the future.

Education will make them build strong foundation for development, for human rights, and so they will have been equipped with a strong shield of knowing their rights in order to scale down violence, discrimination, and injustice that are often directed to women and girls in particular, and the whole community in general.”

– Mother of six children

Surviving Violence and Abuse

DRC-girl-orphansPhoto: COFAPRICOFAPRI commits itself to helping women and girls survivors of rape and domestic violence that has become rampant in the DRC due to repetitive wars. The children of these victims of warfare are not neglected, either.

We do everything we can in order to help them morally and materially in order to allow them regain confidence and reintegrate society. To carry out this, COFAPRI often meets its members and they share their experiences to lift up from their plights.

The only effective way to do this is via education, may it be formal or informal –  it will fit.

“Without education, people are dead.

They become comparable to a boat abandoned on the sea without a captain where there are a lot of waves ahead. Not educating the people in different contexts that trigger development is to oblige the people to melt like a candle.

We’ll only overcome structural violence, the different evils of violence, address the effects of underdevelopment by erecting strong pillars and foundations through educating the youth and the population in general.

This is like getting a kind of insurance for the future, via appropriate and non-discriminatory education.”

– COFAPRI member

Arrested for “Rebelling Women & Girls Against Their Husbands & Fathers”

Our coordinator in Nyangezi village was arrested under allegations of rebelling women and girls against, respectively, their husbands and parents.

Related article: DRC's Men of Courage & Peace - Determined to Defend Women's Rights, Despite Arrest

The coordinator was released with the help of the traditional leader who is also our member, Mr. Cishugi Nyangezi.  After the release of the coordinator,  Mr. Cishugi Nyangezi said,

“COFAPRI is needed in this area. They are not opposing people, but their beliefs; but what we need to do is to give them opportunity to continue with their activities.

We should not hate them; they are from here and we all know them and we know what they are doing.

They are not comparable to rapists and others.”

After his release, the coordinator did not hide his anger and he stated that people should feel free to help the helpless such as the women and the girls who suffer the atrocities of repeated wars in this country:

Released-COFAPRI-memberMugisho (right) with COFAPRI Coordinator on release from prison.“This is not the way things must work here.

You’d better come and attend one of our meetings so that you can live the truth by listening to what we do.

We do not oppose any man here. We support women and their daughters; we simply want their rights to be respected, we want to see girls being equally treated in their homes like boys.

When you arrest me, you give more courage; you bless me because tomorrow, I will be popular and more women will join COFAPRI.

Anyway, I do not hate you as human beings, but I simply dislike what you are doing in not promoting your daughters, mothers, wives, and sisters here in these villages.

You are my fathers and I am your son. I do thank you as you did what you had to do. Think of how to arrest those who rape these women we are serving and not us who serve them. God bless you.”

In Unity, Women Can Overcome Abuse & Discrimination

DRC-IWD-2013Photo: COFAPRIOn International Women’s Day this year, COFAPRI met some of its members and they discussed some issues related to the different forms of discrimination women and girls suffer in their different communities.

They concluded that if they are united, they can overcome abuse and discrimination, but education can help them more in this way.