DRC Photo essay: the women of Kapulwa chase their dreams
The village of Kapulwa, in Haut-Katanga, is full of ambitious, determined, and resilient women who work everyday to pursue their dreams. Opportunities flourish, but this was not always the case. Sud-Ouest Développement is a local NGO working in Kapulwa village since 1998. In 2016 and 2017, through the project “Strengthening the economic power of women in rural and peri-urban areas in the province of Haut-Katanga", UN Women provided SOD with financing to help ensure the economic empowerment of women and put an end to gender-based violence and child marriage in the region. The UN Women DRC team visited the project in November 2022 to see where the women are now.
Destine is a vegetable grower and mother of 13 children. She owns her own plot of land, sells vegetables at nearby markets, and proudly speaks about her children who are in university or employed elsewhere; Umila grows vegetables for her children, while her husband does the same for her, they work together to ensure their family’s fruitful future; Nadine is glad her new vocation means that she will not become a young bride. A few years back she would have endured a very different fate.
The village of Kapulwa, in Haut-Katanga, is full of ambitious, determined, and resilient women who work everyday to pursue their dreams. Opportunities flourish, but this was not always the case.
"With funds from UN Women, I got money through SOD to be able to build the plots and I invested in agriculture"- Umila.
Sud-Ouest Développement is a local NGO working in Kapulwa village since 1998. In 2016 and 2017, through the project “Strengthening the economic power of women in rural and peri-urban areas in the province of Haut-Katanga", UN Women provided SOD with financing to help ensure the economic empowerment of women and put an end to gender-based violence and child marriage in the region. The UN Women DRC team visited the project in November 2022 to see where the women are now.
“After receiving funding from UN Women in 2016 we started receiving training on agriculture and the market economy, which helped me a lot. I started a bean business plan that allowed me to save, sell and support myself. A few of my children got married and were able to study.”
Destine Mulubwa is a native of Kapulwa and one of the first members of SOD. She grew up in an environment where child marriages and violence against women were normalized. "Before, we heard a lot about cases of gender-based violence and early marriages, but we no longer hear about cases of abuse. We started attending workshops on women's rights and now we know that if a man touches and mistreats us, he is the one that is pitiful, not us. The village has them arrested and punished”.
Agriculture is not the only area in which Kapulwa women are invested. Masonry, a profession traditionally dominated by men, has been encouraged among young women who do not what to go to university.
“SOD aims to help promote women, to help them develop. Our focus is mainly young women and girls due to the many cases of early marriages in the region. We want them to continue their education, when possible, and if not give them a profession so that there is not only marriage as an option.
Since 1998 we have led many projects: micro-enterprises, cutting and sewing and agro-business, but since 2018 have started to promote the masonry sector for young girls. Firstly, it is a much more buoyant sector than sewing, they are sure to have a job because everyone needs housing. Second, they learn to work while respecting the environment; we are now waiting for a stabilized brick machine, which is more high-performing and cheaper than baked brick. It allows us to improve the houses of the village and region.
They have professional and official training. Our military partners confirm that the students have acquired the skills to become masonry workers and obtain their official certificates. Now they can go anywhere in the country.” – Gracia Kabanga, SOD director in the village.
The 5th of November 2022 marked the graduation of this year’s cohort of young workers. Mothers and fathers sung along and showered their children with flour (a DRC tradition during graduations) in a sign of pride and happiness.
“This project has prevented us from ending in early marriages. The day we decide to get married, we will have our jobs and we will contribute to the household income.” - expressed Nadine Kamwengo Kaumba, one of the new masonry graduates.
The dream of the women of Kapulwa is far from over, though. Owning their own businesses and plots of land is only their beginning. “My dream is for my children to grow up in society. I did not have the opportunity to advance but I did everything so that my children surpassed me and became great men and women” said Umila. “I will save enough to build a big house on my land to accommodate my children when they visit me” wishes Destine.
Since 2016, and with the help of the masonry graduates, Kapulwa has built a preschool, a church, a dispensary with a trained nurse, a shop, an assembly room, a women's center, and they even have a trained lawyer to help them navigate official paperwork. The villagers continue to attend training on entrepreneurship, money-saving and ending gender-based violence, and the vegetable growers have reached affluent markets from nearby large towns.
“UN Women has helped us shed light on the women from the rural world and empower them by providing training on market economy and saving money. We are very thankful” - Honorable Liliane Maka, provincial deputy of Haut-Katanga and founding member and patron of SOD.