COFAPRI Extends Activities to Katana
By Bahati Valerie, Co-founder & Executive Secretary, COFAPRI. January 2015.
Recently, my agenda took me respectively to Nyangezi and Katana villages. We basically operate in Nyangezi.
I went to Katana this time to meet the local leaders and together discuss ways of starting our activities there. The leaders were very collaborative and highly supportive to COFAPRI’s vision, mission and objectives.
Katana is a big conglomeration of several villages, just as Nyangezi is, and it is located in North Bukavu, the capital city of South Kivu - the province in which COFAPRI is currently operating. It is situated at about 81 kms from Nyangezi. Like in Nyangezi, this new area has many women and girls who were raped and who delivered children of rape.
These children suffer social and family discrimination and this causes them lots of trauma; many of them cannot go to school due to either poverty or discrimination.
Collaborating with Local Leaders
In Katana, I met the local leaders for the first time and we agreed on how to start our activities in their area. As I have mentioned above, the leaders were very supportive to us to work in their area.
During the discussions, the leaders asked me to buy them some beer and so continue our discussion. This is very common among Congolese men: they often say ‘men talk around a calabash’; here the calabash symbolizes beer.
As I knew this as a rule of thumb, I did not hesitate. We went somewhere and I bought them the beer.
They then openly told me that our vision, mission and objectives are very helpful to the women and girls, as well as their children. They added that they have often seen many organizations coming in their areas, but none of them has come to meet them before starting any activity and that they simply show them papers signed by the provincial leaders and they start their activities.
‘Your idea of coming to see us before starting your activities here shows how serious and well-organized your organization is. The way you have shown trust and collaboration with us is the same way we will support you in your activities. We highly appreciate as you are a woman who wants to develop other women; we really like this and we are behind you.’
The second and third times I visited Katana, I met the women, the girls, and children, and we discussed also about the various activities we will be involved in with them.
Unity for Development and Recovering from Trauma
This region has been seriously victimized by repeated and shameful rapes of women and girls and as well many children were taken forcibly into militia.
This reflects how the community suffers a lot the aftermath of rape and the loss of their children. They hope COFAPRI is going to help them a lot to overcome moral injuries like trauma that they have been going through for ages.
Involving these survivors in development activities and mostly income-generating activities can still boost them to regain confidence of a better future. This can also help them overcome poverty and address the violence they endure in homes and in communities.
The members who were present in the very first meeting accepted to work with us hand-in-hand for the common cause of their welfare. They avowed that nothing is impossible if people are united.
"Unity is a great trigger of development. If we all are united, men, women, boys and girls, nothing can be hard for us.
The problem is that in most cases people say what they’ll not do and this is what makes us suffer. We have to see our neighbour as a source of potentiality that is necessary for all of us.
We know that one hand can never crush a louse or beat a drum. By helping a neighbour we are helping ourselves and this is how people develop. Look at this lady who has been coming from afar; she has climbed mountains and walked in mud to look for us – this is how we must behave."
Over a Hundred New Members
The members who participated in the very first meeting were numerous.
They were 106 from all walks of life: women, men, girls and boys; married and single; educated or not, and all of them registered as full members of COFAPRI.
I appreciated this as it showed how interested they are.
They also elected a team that will be coordinating the different activities they will be involved in.
All the members of their managing team are women and girls, which I appreciated as this was their own initiative.
‘Although all of us are women, we do not exclude our brothers, sons and husbands to work with us. We still need them and their ideas will help us a lot. This is what we want: to work hand in hand.
Sharing ideas and pulling the stone on one side will be very necessary for a sustainable way change toward development.’
New COFAPRI member.
Committed to Working Hand in Hand for Women and Children
At the end of the meeting, everyone was happy and they all promised that next time I come back there to visit them, they will surprise me with what they will have done.
I also promised them I will always be in touch with them, not to be far from them, which is a nice way of moving ahead and overcoming the hurdles of life, especially for the women and girls who have been raped and the children born of them.
In order to show them we are committed to work with them hand in hand, I had to show them my commitment and a female pig was given to them to start with rearing activities.
I promised them that next time we meet we’d make proper plans on other activities.
The women were very much appreciative for this gesture.
'We greatly appreciate your coming here in our area; as you have thought of helping us, we also promise things will be ok with you. This pig you have given us today shows your good will and it is very meaningful for us here.
This is a nice beginning.
We have seen many organizations coming here but they never did as you do now. They simply came and talked to us – and next time, they do not come back again. We will not discourage your efforts but we will support you because this is for our interest. A woman like you who comes to support other women, this is wonderful.
We thank you and we promise things will work.'
Another new COFAPRI member