he Women’s Leadership Project is an add-on project that builds on Project Ushindi’s Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) Platform to strengthen the capacity for women’s participation in the democratic process and conflict resolution and to create awareness and use of family planning and child spacing.
In short, WLP empowers Congolese women to become “Superwomen” in their respective communities.
The story of Albertina is just one example of the many women who have benefitted from WLP.
Albertina Kisuhumu is a 48-year-old widowed mother of six children. She has been a faithful member of the Bulongo Community Core Group (Noyau Communautaire) in the health zone of Mutwanga since the beginning of Project Ushindi. She is a business woman, but she didn’t know how to read or write, which made it difficult to deal with currency exchange in an area where three different currencies are used: Congolese Francs, Ugandan shilling and U.S. dollars. As a result, she fell victim to several cases of fraud.
Albertina is also vice president of the Mothers of the Protestant Evangelical Church of Central Africa (CEPAC). But in that role she was often embarrassed when asked to read aloud from the Bible during a church service. She was also unable to prepare activity reports without assistance from others.
Her son, a teacher, gave her a cellphone, but she had difficulty understanding how to use it. He encouraged her to join the Ushindi literacy circle.
She bravely agreed to not only join a literacy circle but also a Village Savings and Loan group. A year later, she has completed the literacy circle, and now proudly speaks of the advantages that she has discovered in knowing how to read and write.
She has blossomed in her business, her self respect and her well-earned autonomy. She now knows how to use a cellphone. She has mastered the business of making purchases, conducting sales and calculating profit in three currencies. Because she knows how to read and write — and is a devoted leader of her church — she has been elected president of the Association of the Vulnerable of Bulongo. She is also very pleased that all of her children have been able to complete school, due in part to her ability to access loans from the Village Savings and Loan to expand her business and pay tuition fees.
Albertina, like her many friends, recognize that the road ahead may be long and uphill, but that they can already claim some victories and build on real outcomes thanks to the Women’s Leadership Project.
How do you change cultural norms that enable violence against women? By addressing the root causes, like inequality and a lack of access to basic health care. The Women’s Leadership Project is a two-year add-on to the USHINDI Project in 9 Health Zones in Eastern DR Congo. Its purpose is to reinforce and mobilize women’s capacities for leadership and self-determination while promoting reproductive health/family planning.