Initiatives of FEBA in Kinshasa
Because the problems of crippling poverty and violence against women are complex and far-reaching, the approach of Femme Berceau de l’Abondance is multifaceted and growing.
Counseling and Refuge – Survivors of rape and forced prostitution find regular counseling and support. Some women and girls need a safe place; they have been living with President Monique or other members. When the regular salaries for the necessary personnel (matron and guards) can be assured, the new Women’s Center will not only provide appropriate privacy for counseling but also be able to shelter more women and girls.
Medical Care – FEBA assists rape survivors in obtaining medical care. Some women have contracted HIV/AIDS from unfaithful spouses or from time spent in forced prostitution. The staff encourages testing, provides necessary medical treatment and follow-up appointments, and assists with the regular nourishing meals that are necessary for HIV/AIDS medication to be effective. They also work to educate about the disease.
Literacy and Human Rights – Many women and girls who come to FEBA are illiterate; most have at best the equivalent of a sixth grade education. FEBA provides these women with further education. Particularly these women gain new perspectives on their human rights in their context and realize that they have choices in dealing with domestic violence, forced early marriage, harmful sexual practices, and other challenges.
Community Support - Monthly gatherings give women and girls the opportunity to share their stories, worship, and boldly envision an altered future for themselves and their communities. There are also workshops where women learn methods for improved hygiene, micro-finance, and other practical skills.
Children and Youth Education – Education is not free in Congo. Many orphans and children of widowed mothers lack the means for school fees, uniforms, and supplies. FEBA helps the children of members as far as its limited funds allow, usually only two per family in order to spread the assistance. When the Women’s Center is functioning fully and funding for a second literacy teacher is found, FEBA hopes to begin remedial classes for children who have been forced to drop out of school for years, to enable them to return to school at their appropriate grade level.
Sewing School – When a woman has the means to support herself and her family, she not only has the dignity of a secure place in her community, she also has the means to educate her children. When she can save for a rainy day, she is not at the mercy of disaster. Women in the community asked Maman Monique to start a sewing school – which was located in her home for seven years, until the new Women’s Center was built. There students learn a marketable trade and are able to pay their opportunity forward to their children. They learn the basics of sewing by hand, then master the use of a manual or treadle sewing machine and designing clothing. With the larger space at the Women’s Center, it has been possible to expand the number of students.
Micro-Savings and Micro-Finance – Most women never have a bank account, but they can bring their little earnings ($1-$5) to the monthly gatherings of FEBA where each member can have her own micro-savings book. Small groups of women also benefit from a micro-loan program when funds are available.
Market Garden – FEBA has the goal of helping women improve nutrition for their families and learn best practices for their small farms or gardens. After political problems cost them their first farm, they have now been able to buy a new one in a safer place outside Kinshasa, where they are raising food for the Women’s Center and to sell to support other projects. They also demonstrate the use of better quality seeds and agricultural methods and are addressing the poverty of the surrounding village.
Small Animal Husbandry - Sources of protein are difficult for most families to find, so FEBA’s newest project is small animal husbandry, particularly raising rabbits. These can be sold to the busy Kinshasa restaurants and supplement both food and income for FEBA’s projects.
The New Women’s Center
The Women’s Center serves as the primary operating facility of FEBA/ Woman, Cradle of Abundance in Kinshasa. The Center houses working space for the educational and economic empowerment programs. When fully funded, it will provide shelter and counseling for abused girls and women, and a home (as needed) for orphans and students of the sewing school who currently travel long distances to attend class.
Where Is It?
Kinshasa, a city of about 10 million+, is one of the largest French-speaking metropolitan areas in the world. It is one of the most expensive for ex-patriots to live but many international businesses have bought up property so land prices are very high. In better-off neighborhoods, houses may be several stories with nice gardens. In most of Kinshasa, buildings are one-story, set directly on the street behind their protective walls, crowded together. This is where FEBA has created its Women’s Center, right in the heart of need, in the large, poor quarter where many of its members live. It is not far from Maman Monique’s home where FEBA has had its headquarters since its 2nd beginning in 2010.
2014: Buying the Property
The property was purchased in July 2014; it is 226.3 sq. meters (270.65 sq. yds); it is 33.8 feet wide at the street x 72.17 feet deep. The pictures show the street, the ground plan, and front of the property, between walls of neighboring compounds.
2014-15 Setting the Plan
The Women’s Center was planned as a 2-story building covering the entire property. On the right and at the rear, the building’s walls come to the edge of the property. At the front, below the 2nd floor balcony, on the ground floor there is a narrow space between the wall and the new concrete “fence.” The 4th side with the entry and stairs to the second level has a courtyard about 10 (in places 12) feet x 50 feet, which has now been roofed to protect it from the severe storms.
The architect’s idealized drawing omits the crowded surrounding neighborhood. The ground floor houses classrooms, the FEBA office, sewing workroom, and storage areas, with several “public” toilets for non-residents. The upper level has 2 “salons” for meeting or dining, kitchen & storage, 5 bedrooms (3 dorms, 1 for staff, 1 for guests or for private counseling), & toilet-shower facilities for residents.
Occupancy is delayed until money is available to pay a matron and 24/7 guards.
2015 Beginning to Build
Building began seriously after the winter rainy season (fall 2014). A very strong foundation had to be prepared because this would be a two-story structure, much higher than most houses. Once the ground was fortified and a drainage system was installed, actual building could begin with heavy concrete blocks. The office and sewing workroom (rear ground floor) were first. The challenges for the workmen in Congo are significant: tools are limited, conditions very simple.
2016 Building Moves forward to the Upper Level
When a structure has two levels, it is common to build an outdoor stairwell. Adding the second level raises the Women’s Center above the neighboring houses, which can be seen from the upper floor windows.
2017 Structure Complete
The structure is completed! The walls are heavy cement blocks. The roof of sturdy galvanized iron is raised high to allow ventilation.
2017-18 Finishing Touches
The rough walls are covered with cement plaster for painting; windows and doors are fitted; more interior work is done. All external openings are barred for safety. Ventilation spaces near the top of the wall admit air but prevent breaking and entering from neighboring compounds.
2018 Ground Floor Ready for Occupancy
Now for exterior finishing and painting: the courtyard (before and after). Interior finishing of classrooms was next. When painted, the surface requires repainting every two or three years, so FEBA chose to use the more expensive wallpaper which will last up to ten years or more. This is classroom 2 (before and after).
Summer 2018 Moving in!
In July 2018 the sewing school moved into its new quarters, and in August FEBA began to hold its monthly meetings (2nd Thursday) in the courtyard!
Still to Come
The upper level of the Center is the residence area still needs some final painting or papering, etc., and more furnishings for the kitchen and dormitory rooms. The Center cannot accept residents until it can afford to hire around the clock guards (a common situation in Kinshasa) and a matron.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! To all of you, our wonderful generous donors who have made this dream into a reality! Our special thanks to J&J CaringCrowd for contributing to the furnishing.
Initiatives of CENEDI in Uvira
Because the situation in eastern Congo has been an undeclared war zone for over twenty years, the work of CENEDI includes particular attention to basic needs.
Support and Counseling – In eastern Congo, rape is a weapon of war. CENEDI provides psychological support and pastoral counseling to victims of rape and sexual attack.
Medical Care – CENEDI provides support for medical treatment for victims of rape and violence, including hospitalization.
Food and Shelter - Women are often attacked when going into the forest to gather wood to sell, or working in their fields a distance from home. When they are unable to continue these jobs, CENEDI helps with temporary food and shelter.
Children & Youth Education – The main focus on CENEDI has been to enable a number of destitute children to attend school from primary through secondary.
Peace-Education - A recent movement has been developing a local implementation of Quaker peace education for the larger community but especially focused on the primary schools
Community Charity School – CENEDI operates Community Charity School, a tuition-free school for destitute children. Over 90% of them are orphaned.
Micro-Finance Projects – A small beginning has been made in creating jobs for the program’s graduates and the community. One project was a cyber café where community members can pay to use internet. A second is a small sewing project providing three women with two machines. A third, soon to begin, is developing “Peace Clubs” in primary schools, with secondary school graduates trained in the peace-making workshop earning a modest fee for teaching children.
Market Garden - Soon the women will begin a small communal market garden close to the village to provide support for themselves (since gathering wood in the forest and farms at a distance have proved dangerous)