Years of conflicts in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have thrown the country into chaos. It’s led to poverty, denial of justice and lack of access to medical and psychological rehabilitation for young people. Inability to access education has further exacerbated this and there are high rates of illiteracy. In Eastern DRC, almost 40% of girls are illiterate. Many of them are orphans, separated from their parents by conflict or abandoned.
In DRC, 72% of the population lives in extreme poverty, on less than £1.50 a day. For young people, there are few opportunities to escape this poverty. 20% of 15-24 year olds have no means of income, yet they’re likely to be single mothers or the head of their household and looking after their siblings.
Many of the young people we speak to have faced physical and sexual assault. Among the girls we supported last year were those who had been raped and become pregnant. But amidst conflict and unrest there was nobody to support them. They were left to look after their child, while their rapist never faced justice. Others we supported were orphaned, their parents having been killed by conflict in the region, and had turned to prostitution to earn a living.
When talking to these young people with our partner, Children’s Voice, we found that young people need more than just education in literacy, but also vocational and entrepreneurial skills which could help them to bring in an income.
Vocational training and entrepreneurship classes are supporting young people out of poverty
In 2018, we supported Children’s Voice to run a vocational training programme at their Kibati Centre for 80 girls. They learned food processing skills but were also supported in business development and entrepreneurship, and they were grouped into cooperatives following the training to help them earn money together. In 2019, another cohort of 80 girls were also supported in tailoring and upon the completion of their programme, they were grouped into cooperatives and started their careers together.
Last year, your support meant that another 40 young people were able to go through vocational training! This time, Children’s Voice developed a new training course in mobile communications. They learned how to process money transfers, sell mobile airtime and internet bundles. Again, they formed cooperatives meaning they could progress together as well as save money together.
“I am a single mother with one child. I used to be a prostitute in order to earn living but it was a very tough life. I did not have hope that I could be financially independent but a friend told me about the training in entrepreneurship and I immediately went for it. Fortunately I met their selection criteria and I am now thankful that I have graduated with a start up kit that will help me do my job with no problem. I have now re-gained my hope and will never go back into prostitution.“
Following a 6-month training course, our 2020 cohort graduated and were given a start-up kit with a stool, table, telephone and 3 types of sim cards. The start -up kit will help them sell phone internet bundles and minutes, sim cards, money transfers and second-hand phones. This will in turn help the community around Kibati centre to increase their internet connectivity as well as increase the use of cashless transfers and payment. This will also help to reduce the risk of having money stolen by thieves in an area where robbery is common, but justice is rarely served.
With an income, young women will no longer have to turn to prostitution. They’ll be at a lower risk of rape and abuse, and will have the financial independence to support themselves and their family!
“I’m now look after my five siblings after our parents died in wars. I am thankful for the training in entrepreneurship, and have now graduated with a start-up kit that will help me start my career and make a living for my siblings.”
Disability and Inclusion Advisor and Programme Manager for DRC