Do you have a spare unwanted sewing machine? WER needs second hand machines to help change the lives of women in the Congo.
In our disposable age, the art of sewing is sometimes undervalued.
However, for a group of women in South Kivu, sewing is literally a lifeline.
Kivu, like most of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has been devastated
by years of conflict, which killed over 5 million people.
faced particular suffering. Even
before the conflict, women faced hardship and low status in a traditional
patriarchal society. But during the war things became much worse.
All sides used rape as a weapon, an estimated 40,000 women, were assaulted by
combatants- a horrific tactic that aimed to emotionally terrorise and bring
shame upon victims. Many have since been shunned by families and
war also widowed a staggering amount of women, some as young as 16.
In a society which places low value on women, a widow is often left to fend for
her children alone.
has been working in partnership with a local NGO, African Revival Ministries
(ARM), in Uvira to improve the lives of women affected by the war. Together
they have developed, funded and implemented an income generation project
through which women receive sewing and tailoring training. Literacy and
numeracy training are also provided. Graduates are then able to make an income
by selling the goods that they produce. This can then be used to pay for food
and for their children’s education.
are also encouraged to set up small co-operatives, gaining extra security
through mutual support. There is even a reward scheme in place whereby
participants are given the opportunity to win their own sewing machine.
giving women the tools that they need to support themselves and their children,
it is hoped that they will eventually become self-sustainable. By empowering
women as wage-earners and small scale entrepreneurs the programme also seeks to
gently adjust the status of women in Congolese society.
programme has been running successfully now for five years. 30 women graduate
each year with this year’s class graduating in July.
Over 50 women so far have gone on to start their own tailoring businesses,
illustrating the sustainability of the project.
is one of the programme's success stories. Céline's mother died
when Céline was 6 and for many years she was moved from family member to family
member or left to fend for herself. She was excluded from school because
she could not pay the fees. At just 16 she had lost all hope of a better
future. Since joining the scheme Céline has felt much more positive about
her options in life. On graduation, due for September, she has already
found a placement with one of the co-operatives and will be able to support
herself at last.
is as if the sewing machine has freed me," she said. "With each
stitch I have more choice and I become stronger."
This project still needs support and maybe you can help!
ensure the ongoing success and durability of the sewing school, more sewing
machines are required. More machines will allow the setting up of more small
co-operatives amongst the women in South
Kivu and allow further
is looking preferably for hand or foot operated machines – old or new-
but we will also be happy with electric machines. If you would like
to learn more about this project or would like to donate a machine then please
or call 0844 249