Eastern DR Congo has been the scene of unimaginable violence and human rights abuses since 1996. Women and children above all have suffered the worst of the violence. With many living in isolated rural areas, they have been extremely vulnerable to the various armed groups operating in DR Congo, and often deliberately targeted for attack and rape.

Despite these experiences of conflict, a group of women have been working together to heal the wounds of the past. Amina Gisèle of Fondation Chirezi has started a women’s healing and care programme as part of ‘baraza’ peacebuilding forums in DR Congo. Baraza forums are a technique used by Chirezi that brings together the whole community to discuss issues.

Amina explained why she believes what she is doing is worthwhile:

“Fondation Chirezi has started this programme through my initiative because I believe it is possible for these women to play again their roles as the sustainers of Congolese society and the builders of the future of local communities.”

Amina has been many times threatened because she had engaged to defend these women. She has faced threats of rape, including by men in uniforms.

Different initiatives have been started in different baraza by these women to start again a new life. In Uvira, Bukavu, Kiliba, Sange and Swima different activities are undertaken by those women. The women have usually been the victims of sexual violence. The courage of these women to start again is what Amina and Fondation Chirezi are proud to show to the world, a message expressed by Maman Safi of the sewing group in Uvira: “We are coming from a bad past, but our past must not determine our future. We must go over what happened because we are determined to win.”

How the Fondation Chirezi helps

  1. The department of women at Fondation Chirezi use the baraza meetings to identify victims of the past wars who might participate.
  2. After the identification, Amina encourages women to come together regularly to talk and share their experience.
  3. When they feel connected, a trauma healing session is planned and organised to help women talk about their past, their wounds, stories in order to go through them and get healed.
  4. Women are placed in different professional groups to learn a self help activity which shall enable them become economically independent, provide for their families, care for children.

Different professional groups

The Baraza form different professional groups for participants.

Women participants take part in the following activities:

  1. Sewing training activity
  2. Gardening and agriculture
  3. Goat and Cow exchange project
  4. Chicken project
  5. Micro credit activities
  6. Soap making.
Former child soldiers can also join the baraza meetings. They can take part in the following activities:
  1. Carpentry training
  2. Computer training
  3. Soap making
  4. Shoe making.
The centre in Uvira received 10 sewing machines and computers from Holland to help the project of ex-child soldiers and women victims of sexual violence in Uvira and Kiliba. Teachers were paid thanks for the help of Cordaid and Focus on Education, Holland.

Peacebuilding must be a practical concept not an empty word. This is why Fondation Chirezi thinks that women and children who were victims of abuse need first to be empowered to look after themselves. We have visited some women activities and we have experienced love and action to face together the future. Peace building starts locally! These local women initiatives need your encouragement and support.

Please contact us if you would like further information about Fondation Chirezi and their work.