Battered Girls and Women Rescued
Sixteen-year-old GLORIA was separated from her family during the war. Her mother was a soldier and was sent to Goma in eastern Congo. Gloria ended up on the streets of Kinshasa with no place to go. She often slept under parked cars, or any other place that provided shelter. Then Gloria was raped—she didn’t know who had attacked her - and discovered that she was pregnant. She heard about a woman from her home region, Mme Monique, who welcomed everyone in need, especially young girls. When she found her way to Mme Monique she learned that FEBA would take her in and help her get medical care. Gloria gave birth to a healthy baby and a few months later Mme Monique was able to reunite mother and child with Gloria’s own family.
A young teen-aged orphan named NATASHA was left in the care of her uncle. He ordered her to become a prostitute to support herself, but she refused, so he threw her out of the house and she was forced to live on the street. Natasha took refuge wherever she could find shelter, but she was not safe...; she suffered multiple rapes and ended up in a hospital. Hospitals do not feed patients; they must rely on family for food, and Natasha had no family. When members of FEBA visited the hospital to bring food to their friends, they also fed Natasha, and when she could leave the hospital they brought her home to Mme Monique. When she was well again, Natasha enrolled in FEBA’s sewing school. Now Natasha has a future, and a safe and respected way to support herself.
Thirteen-year-old EPHRASIE was an orphan. Her parents had died of AIDS, which is considered a mystery and curse, so Ephrasie was accused of killing them by sorcery. She was left with her mother’s relatives but they beat her and starved her and she caught tuberculosis. Only one of her cousins tried to help her by bringing her to Mme Monique. Immediately Mme Monique took Ephrasie into her home and got her medical care, in spite of the warnings of her neighbors that she risked catching TB from the child. Not long after Ephrasie was well and strong again, a beautiful young girl, relatives from her father’s side of the family turned up at Mme Monique’s door. She told them the story of how Ephrasie had been abused, and they began to cry. They offered Mme Monique money but she said, “I did not steal your child for money. I took care of her because God teaches us to love those who are afflicted. Ephrasie needs to feel she is loved; here with us she is surrounded with love.” The family promised to take good care of Ephrasie and send her to school; she went with them and returned to primary school and on to secondary school. From time to time she came back to visit Mme Monique and recently she returned to show that she had successfully finished secondary school.
SEWING SCHOOL SUCCESSES
Graduation 2019 - in the new Women’s Center the number of students has increased; this time 17 completed the rigorous training. The certificates are the prized state recognition that these young women have passed the most rigorous tailor exams. FEBA has a reputation as one of the best schools in the country. FEBA gives each graduate a manual sewing machine to begin her own business.
Sewing School success stories as told to Elsie
“My name is Mundeke-Odito Eve. My parents died when I was a child and I was brought to live with a widowed aunt in Kinshasa. She was poor and we did not have any means; I ended up getting pregnant and had a baby girl to support. Then a man told me about the sewing school at the church and asked if I wanted to learn to sew; I said ‘yes.’ I began with little exercises, then baby clothes, and then more. When I graduated I received a sewing machine and I could sew at home to support myself and my daughter. She is now five and has finished kindergarden and started first grade. Working alone was not easy and then FEBA offered me a job helping to make school uniforms. I am very happy to have my salary and to work with Maman Monique.” The FEBA leaders praise Maman Eve; “She is very good! She sews the uniforms very quickly and very well.”
“My name is Pambu-Loraine. My parents divorced when I was a child and my mother remarried, so I have half-siblings. Then my step-father died and then my own father died and things became very difficult because we had no food and my little brothers can no longer go to school. When my father was alive I went to school and got to 4th primary but I wasn’t a good student and I couldn’t read or write. When my father died, I could not continue studying. When I came here I learned to read and write Lingala [the local language]. That meant I could learn to sew. Before I could read I did not know anything: I could not cut out things, I did not know how to take measurements, but now when the teacher explains something I understand. Before I was nothing and did not know what to do, now I have been opened up and have learned and can do things [to make a future for myself]. I am so grateful to Maman Monique!!!”
“My name is Muyiya-Salima. I am an orphan and lived with my aunts. There were lots of problems and hunger; I found a boyfriend and got pregnant twice. My boyfriend urged me to go back to school. I had to leave secondary school after year 5 because I had no money but now I finished and got my state diploma. Living with my aunt I met a woman who had graduated from the FEBA sewing school. She asked me why I was sitting around doing nothing and said I should learn to sew. I thought sewing school was for people who are not intelligent (I had my state diploma). The woman insisted and showed me the things she had sewed so I finally agreed to come to the school.
“When they gave me the first exercises, I could not do them; when they explained how, I did not understand. I said to myself, ‘I thought this was a school for people who were not smart…’ So I realized it took intelligence to sew and I began to do the work, step by step, from baby to adult clothes. I am unsure about my children’s father; if he is the husband God intends for me then he will know it, but anyway I have decided that I will not have any more children until I am sure. I do everything to pay my own monthly fee [usually only a few dollars] and when I can’t Maman Jeannette lets me continue until I can pay. I am almost at the end of the program, working on the (two-month) apprenticeship stage. I want my little sister to come and study here. I thank God that I now know how to sew, and I am very very grateful to Maman Monique and all the women here at the FEBA center. Wherever I go now, I will have a way to support myself!”
Orphans and Destitute Children
“I am called Mpinguyabu-Daniel.
My grandmother, who is a member of FEBA, brought me to Mme Monique. We are seven children; I have an older sister and a twin sister; the others are younger. Education is not free in Congo but thanks to FEBA my older sister and I go to school; she is in the second year of secondary, I have finished primary school (six years). The others don’t go to school because FEBA can only afford to help two children from each family. I like math and want to study pedagogy to teach. I help my twin sister learn to read. We have a blackboard at our house which belonged to my grandfather; I use that to show my sisters and brothers what I have learned at school.”
“I am called Mayimona Santu Papy. I was born in Kinshasa but we lived in the Kasai where in-dustrial diamonds are mined because my father sold diamonds. When Kabila senior came to power in 1997, Rwandan soldiers kidnapped my mother; we thought she was dead. We became refugees in the war, fleeing in a boat to Kinshasa; I was seven, my brother was ten. Then my father traveled to a distant city and was gone seven years; he left us with his brothers. They mistreated us a lot. There was often no money even for food so it was difficult to pay for school. I heard about Mme Monique from a friend of mine. She and FEBA supported my school fees, uniform, supplies. To earn money for food, I worked as a motorcycle taxi driver. A friend asked to use the cycle so he could earn money for food - and the cycle was stolen. I talked with the owner, “I will find another motorcycle to do taxi service and repay you bit by bit.” But she refused. She sent soldiers to put me in prison. I suffered a lot there; members of FEBA brought me food (prisoners are not fed). I called Mme Monique but she was in the USA then. When she got back she worked to free me. To get me out they had to pay a lot and also replace the motorcycle. Thanks to Mme Monique and her friends in the USA she found the money. Because of the bad conditions in prison I was not in good health when I got out and they took me to the hospital, but I forced myself to do my state exams and succeeded; I got my diploma. It is Mme Monique who helped me know God and counsels me, she is beside me. When I have problems I go to her. I ask God to help her continue to help us.”
Some Other Stories
KALUBI CLEMENCE was a destitute young widow from the Kasai province. When she was about 15 or 16, her family married her to a man who worked in the mines at Tshikapa. Two months after her baby girl was born her husband died. Her in-laws were supposed to provide her with the dowry her family had paid, so she could support her child. They told her to come to Kinshasa (a considerable distance away, where a different language is spoken). When she arrived, Kalubi’s in-laws had run off with the dowry, leaving the widow and her four-month old baby destitute. Kalubi found some people who spoke her language and asked the pastor for help. He refused to take her into his home but he told her to sleep in the church (where windows are just open spaces), and she and the baby were terribly bitten by mosquitoes. The next morning Mme Monique heard about Kalubi and immediately rebuked the pastor and took Kalubi and her baby home, and they lived with Monique’s family for some time.
The first plan after rescuing them was to find a way to send them back to the Kasai, but Kalubi explained that she had no way to support herself there. She knew that Mme Monique was running a sewing school, and she asked to be enrolled. She learned to sew very well! When she finished, Kalubi was not only able to support herself and her daughter, but she earned enough to take a computer course and now has a job as a business secretary while continuing to sew to supplement that income. Her daughter is a happy schoolgirl. Kalubi and her little girl are very grateful for their “family” at Mme Monique’s and love to visit “grandmother.”
“I am called Makongolo Dina. I am 3rd of 6; our father died when we were young. We did not go to school, except my oldest brother who paid his own way. One of my sisters told me that there was a non-profit here where you could study sewing. I wanted to do that; I came and talked with Mme Monique and she accepted me. When I came I could not read or write but now I have learned to read and write and I am learning to sew. There were many things I did not know but now I am learning and advancing. I am not married but I have two children, a boy of six (in first grade) and a girl of eight (in third). I had lots of problems; there were times when I did not have anything to eat for three days, and nothing to wear. That is how I got acquainted with a policeman. Policemen are not well paid; he gets $40 or $50 a month. So he does not have enough money to rent a house for his family, but he supports his children. Every few days he brings about 3000 or 4000 Congo francs (less than $5) to buy food for the children. Sometimes he gives me 10,000 francs to buy them clothes. When he gets his salary he pays their school fees. I like to sew because in the future that will allow me to support myself. If I have my work, I will not wander here and there, or prostitute myself to have a little money. I will be able to take charge of my life myself.”
Miss Kalaya Kambala, one of the first graduates of the sewing school which Mme Monique began, was the daughter of a widow. Unlike most of the students, Kalaya had been to school and completed secondary education to get her state diploma – but she could not find a way to support her mother and sisters. She needed a job: so she came to the sewing program… and succeeded wonderfully! After graduation she worked in Congo for a while and then went to Angola where there was a very good market for her creations. Finally, she moved to France where she has a large clientele for her couture.
“My name is Boyata Jeannette. I am the wife of a soldier and we live in Camp Kabila. I am very happy to sew. When my husband was passing by FEBA he saw the poster which said they were seeking people who wanted to learn to sew. He talked with me about it, saying, “You like to sew; I like for you to do it. You are the mother of three children (whom we must educate).” It was my husband who urged me to come. I enrolled in 2013 and now I sew very well. When someone sees how I sew, he asks where I learned and I say, “At Mme Monique’s.” Also I have brought many young girls to this sewing school.
Since the salary of a soldier is not much, I thank God that I can now sew and contribute to our household. I have a sewing machine at my house and I can earn $20 and pay the school fees for my children. The oldest is in the fifth year of secondary, the second is in primary six, and the youngest in primary four. I don’t have enough money to open an atelier (shop) for myself. But in spite of that, now we do not lack food. For example, if someone comes with a broken zipper, I can repair it, or if the pants are too big, I can adjust them. That way we can eat. I thank the Lord for this machine. My husband came the day of graduation and saw me in my beautiful dress. He was very happy when he saw the machine (my graduation present from Woman Cradle of Abundance, Inc.). He said, “Having a machine was a dream and now the dream has come true!” A machine is something extraordinary in the house. I appreciate Mme Monique very much and I am happy that she invited me here to speak about my life. Many thanks to Mme Monique because she has done so much for us.”
ORPHANS and DESTITUTE CHILDREN
Some years ago SHARON, a young girl of 16, got involved with an older married man; when she became pregnant, her family cast her out and she went to live with the man as his second wife. Polygamy is not legal but it is quite common. Sharon had two sons. However, the man contracted AIDS and then his first wife got it and soon Sharon did, also. First the man and his wife died, and then Sharon died. No one in either family was willing to take Sharon’s little boys, ages 2 and 4 years.
Finally, her older sister ROSE could not bear to see the boys abandoned and took them into her own home. Rose already had four children of her own, and her husband was angry that she was adopting her nephews. When he lost his job, he blamed the two little boys, saying they had used witchcraft to destroy his life, and he divorced Rose, abandoning her and their four children as well as the two little nephews. Rose was desperate for a way to support all six children, and turned to Mme Monique for help. FEBA has a program to support orphans with school fees and uniforms, so they enrolled Sharon’s two boys; in 2015 Daniel, the second one graduated from high school. FEBA also helped Rose with a little money to feed herself and the children, and then took her children into the school program. Below are Daniel with his aunt Rose and two of her children, his cousins.
Odette’s family lived in a rural area in the Kasai province. Her husband moved to the capital to look for work, planning that she and the children would follow. While he was waiting for his family, he took up with another woman and contracted AIDS. When Odette moved with the children to the city, he kept his infidelity and the infection a secret from her. FEBA has trained women to raise consciousness about AIDS, to identify the signs and help victims get testing and medicine, and to accompany those living with the disease. One of them saw Odette and invited her to be tested. She was afraid. She also had to ask her husband’s permission and he said “no” because he knew he had infected her; he threatened the women of FEBA. (Mme Monique said, “Let him take me to court!”) Finally Odette was persuaded to go for testing. The result was positive. She fainted and then was furious with her husband. Mme Monique counseled her through the whole process, with prayer and practical help: medicine, food and a small micro-loan. She lived with Monique for a time, and FEBA continues to accompany her and help her educate her children.