The Democratic Republic of Congo has been hit harder than its neighbours by the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 8,000 cases and almost 200 deaths. Like other countries, the Government has closed schools and other institutions, banned large meetings in public and requires people to keep apart. They have also made wearing face masks in all public places mandatory.
Those who don’t wear a face mask in public are at risk of being targeted by the police. They may even be arrested. However, poverty means that not everyone is able to buy a face mask. Under the new rules, poverty is a barrier to even leaving the house.
“I live in a house with my parents and 15 siblings. When the Coronavirus outbreak started in our country, my Dad bought two masks. One for him, and one for the rest of us to share. Dad told us that he didn’t have the money to buy us one each. This meant that only one of us could go out at a time. Even though the country is not fully locked down, we were still stuck inside unable to go out.”Josephine
Supporting young women’s businesses
Our partner in DRC, Children’s Voice, set out to change this. At their Young Women’s Training Workshop, they teach young women tailoring, an essential skill which they can use to earn an income and escape poverty. In March we held a crowdfunder to fund lessons for 40 more girls!
Now, Children’s Voice have called up girls who have gone through their training to sew over 600 masks! The girls are paid for their work, helping to make up for income lost over a tough few months.
“Children’s Voice called on me to help with sewing the masks that will be distributed to vulnerable and disabled women and children. Before and after every shift we washed our hands, and in the workshop we kept apart.Louise, Former Tailoring trainee
I will use the new money I’ve earned to invest in my business, which will help me earn money to support my young children.”
Distributing masks to those who need them
Children’s Voice has been distributing the masks to the most vulnerable, such as street-connected children and young women! “This project has come just at the right time. We knew about vulnerable families and children who were unable to get themselves a mask. These people were victims of the police, and the more people without a mask put themselves and other at direct risk from the disease.” Jeannine, a tailoring instructor at Children’s Voice said.
Through our COVID Response Fund, we’ve also supported Children’s Voice to raise awareness of how to keep safe. They’ve also been combating disinformation about the disease, which many had believed was a “disease for the rich” and wouldn’t affect them. Through radio broadcasts, leaflets and small-scale discussions, they’re reaching the most vulnerable with the support and information they need.