AMKENI Action Group: From illiteracy to entrepreneurship for survivors of sexual violence in Democratic Republic of Congo

Patrice Binwa Aganze

06/15/2012

Collectif Alpha Ujuvi logoW4 welcomes Patrice Binwa Aganze, Communications Director for W4’s incoming field partner in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Alpha Ujuvi Collective!

 

In a country in which an estimated 1,150 girls and women are raped every day and where poverty is generalized, the Alpha Ujuvi Collective, based in Goma, North Kivu, works to empower survivors of sexual violence, through crucial literacy and vocational training. Thanks to knowledge and skills acquired through the Alpha Ujuvi Collective’s programs, the women are able to set up sustainable livelihoods, be part of a supportive network and earn an income for themselves, their families and even fellow community members. As entire villages see their standard of living rise, the stigma of sexual violence and the marginalization of survivors progressively become things of the past.

 

Guest Contributor, Patrice Binwa Aganze, Alpha Ujuvi’s communications Director shares the inspiring story of one group of women entrepreneurs who have overcome illiteracy to become leaders within their community.

                                                                                              

Every day, women around the world work to better the lives of their families and communities. While some of these women receive recognition, others sadly go unnoticed. We may never know the names of these extraordinary women; however, we feel the impact of their acts of courage and compassion in countless respects on a daily basis.

 

Two Congolese women learning to read togetherI’d like to share with you the story of one group of women, the Amkeni Action Group (“Amkeni” means “wake up” in English), who have taken a giant step forward, leaving behind a world of illiteracy to create an enterprise that enables them to sustain themselves and their families. Thanks to Alpha Ujuvi Collective’s “awareness-raising” and literacy programs, the women had the opportunity to learn to read and write and have joined forces to turn their shared dream into a reality – they have created their own restaurant! Indeed, these women have embarked on a full-fledged catering business, delivering meals to customers’ offices and catering for customers at large events, seminars, and conferences.

 

The Amkeni Action Group’s restaurant has sprung from a mere idea into a veritable, sustainable source of revenue for the women. The idea arose because of the lunchtime frustrations of the Alpha Ujuvi Collective’s team members. Every day, our team members at Alpha Ujuvi Collective would leave our premises to have a bite to eat for lunch and would end up losing a hefty portion of income owing to the costs of meals and transport. Furthermore, the restaurant lunches were not very nutritious and transportation was sometimes unreliable and/or unsafe – causing some members to get into accidents or to run late to afternoon courses.  

 

Seeing this, the women in our programs devised the simple and money-saving solution of creating a restaurant on site!

 

Congolese students eating a meal cooked for them after schoolAfter completing their literacy courses, the women of the Amkeni Action Group obtained  seed capital funding from the Alpha Ujuvi Collective, which allowed the women to quickly set up their business– firstly responding to the needs of the Alpha Ujuvi Collective’s team members; naturally, the women then extended their services to employees working at a neighboring organization.

 

The specificity of the Amkeni Action Group’s restaurant lies in the fact that the women have implemented a system that both enables their customers to avoid having to travel from their offices to eat lunch and also grants them the possibility of paying for their meals at the end of every month through a payroll deduction option.

 

This model helps to foster customer loyalty and ensures optimal returns since their customers’ employers pay the group directly at the end of each month when distributing their workers’ monthly wages.

 

The women of the Amkeni Action Group prepare the food, making sure that everything is ready for their hungry customers come lunchtime. Once service has finished on site, they then go off to deliver meals to surrounding woodworking shops, stores and offices – and of course to huts within the Alpha Ujuvi Collective enclosure.

 

For some time now, the Amkeni Action Group has also been providing catering for ceremonies and larger events. They’ve earned a good reputation. Now, every time there’s a conference, seminar, workshop, or meeting that with a buffet or dinner, the Amkeni Action Group is the first on the list of caterers for event organizers.

 

Not only is their catering of high quality but the low cost of their services enables customers to save a great deal of money. Furthermore, the Amkeni Action Group frees their customers from having to plan their events’ logistics.

 

This is only one story of some of the extraordinary, ‘anonymous’ women across the world who have escaped a world of illiteracy and resourcefully pursued activities that empower themselves and their families and that provide wonderful services for the benefit of many people.

 

W4 will be including Alpha Ujuvi’s projects in our portfolio in the coming weeks. Stay tuned to see how you can help support their work so that they may continue to fight illiteracy among women in Democratic Republic of Congo and to provide Congolese women with opportunities to acquire skills and pursue vital income-generating activities!

 

© Women’s WorldWide Web 2012

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Meet the editor in chief

Andrea Ashworth

is an author, journalist and academic. She has studied, taught or held fellowships at Oxford, Yale and Princeton. Andrea has written fiction and non-fiction for numerous publications, including Vogue, Granta, The Times, The TLS and The Guardian. She is the author of the award-winning and internationally bestselling memoir Once in a House on Fire Andrea works to raise awareness about domestic violence and to promote literacy and education.

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