Improving the lives and futures of women and children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) through education.
Describe the need affecting community
In 2008, an armed conflict in an eastern province of the DRC caused what the United Nations described as a “humanitarian crisis of catastrophic dimensions.” The conflict displaced more than 2 million people, children were suddenly orphaned, young girls and women were savagely raped and people were starving. It was against this backdrop that DRC native and women’s rights attorney, Gorethy Nabushosi, found her homeland when she returned after gaining asylum and living in the United States. Mama Gorethy, as she’s affectionately known locally, saw the need was too great to ignore — and Congo Restoration was born. More than a decade later, the country is still healing, and opportunities are minimal for young people. Education is the key to changing that. More recently, the situation has been complicated by inflation, first driven by the pandemic and now by rising prices of the war in Ukraine. School is not mandatory or free, so Congo Restoration provides a vital service to women and children who need a lift up with education.
How will this Advance project help to address the need?
Mama Gorethy had a vision of lifting up the women and children of the DRC through education, empowerment, and entrepreneurship. She began by creating an orphan program. Congo Restoration (CR) cares for 30 orphans who live with extended family members and supports the education and medical care of these children, continuing through college. At the same time, Mama Gorethy sought a way to help the countless young women who had been raped during the conflict — and were then considered a stain on their family’s honor and left to fend for themselves. With the board of directors, she created the Congo Restoration Sewing School in 2011 to teach these survivors, ages 16 and up, a trade during a six-month training program. At the end of their training, they are awarded a diploma, their own sewing machine, and a sewing tool kit. Since its inception, over 700 women have graduated from the program and 99% have gone on to open their own businesses. Mama Gorethy knew that the sooner girls were exposed to a quality academic education, the brighter their futures. In 2019, Congo Restoration opened The Congo Restoration Girls School of Compassion, starting with grades 1 and 2. Overcoming their initial reluctance of questioning the value of educating their daughters, parents now see the school as a vital resource. The school serves 140 girls, grades 1-5, with plans to expand to the 6th-grade in 2023. With the help of funds from the Advance, Congo Restoration serves this fragile yet hopeful community in rural Congo.
Describe the primary goal of the project
Congo Restoration’s guiding mission is to empower those women and children of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) brutalized by war through education, so as to restore in them hope, dignity and aspirational ambitions to lead fulfilled and self-sufficient lives — safely.
Describe the change you would like to see in the community as a result of this Advance project
To lift up the women and children of the village of Mudaka in Eastern Congo through education, empowering them to change the trajectory of their lives, their family’s lives, their communities’ lives, and perhaps even the future of their country. Research shows when you lift up women, you lift up an entire community. That’s what we are doing. With our sewing school, we are giving training to women who have been thrown away by their culture. They are coming out entrepreneurs and leaders in their communities and families. In our primary school, we are starting earlier in the process of these girls’ lives. In rural DRC, girls from poor families have little hope of attending school. Their families’ poverty makes affording the fees, mandatory uniforms, and necessary school supplies to attend the country’s public schools out of reach for many. According to UNICEF, half of the girls ages 5-17 do not attend school in the DRC. Girls are either put to work at an early age to help with family finances or are deemed unworthy of an education. Combine these factors with ongoing rebel violence in the country and a growing food crisis, and the future looks bleak for this next generation. However, education can be a game-changer. According to a United Nations report, “in the midst of conflict and disaster, education can be both life-sustaining and life-saving.” Achieving both ideals is our mission with the Girls School of Compassion. In the process, our hope is that families realize the importance of education, and each girl is not only able to soar to her full academic potential but, in her own way, will one day impact the future of the Democratic Republic of Congo for the better.