Street Child in the DRC

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The Democratic Republic of Congo has been debilitated by violent conflict for many years. Despite being a large country with tremendous natural reserves of diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, cassiterite and coltan, chronic institutional frailty has meant that the DRC has not experienced the potential development, wealth and prosperity that they perhaps could have. Instead the DRC is recognised as a victim of the so-called ‘resource curse’ where the actual fruits of natural resources are exploited by perpetrators of war. Over the last 30 years, the conflict has hit the Congolese society hard, and especially in the province of South Kivu, the educational system has been debilitated.

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We are working in the region of South Kivu in two separate locations. Firstly, we are located in the High Plateau, a remote and mountainous region which has endured some of the worst episodes of violence. The war-induced human displacement in the High Plateau has destroyed schools, and left children without an adequate form of organised learning. Street Child is one of the only NGOs to venture to the Plateau because it is extremely difficult to access. Secondly, we operate in the Lusenda refugee camp, near the Burundian border. The situation in the DRC has been exacerbated by the spillover of some 400,000 refugees fleeing political instability in Burundi. The camp was formed in 2015 and still houses thousands of families. Local congolese schools in Lusenda have struggled to accommodate the influx of new students needing places at schools and many have missed out on places altogether.

We are attempting to revitalise the education system and strengthen local communities’ ability to support the education of their children. We are adopting a multi-level approach that includes teacher training, school quality management, engaging parents, removing economic barriers to education and tackling social and cultural barriers that prevent disadvantaged girls from receiving education. We also have a school infrastructure improvement programme, under which we have built and rehabilitated 22 schools to date. In Lusenda where secondary schools are particularly overstretched, we have trained secondary teachers to improve the quality of teaching, and provided teaching materials, student kits and uniforms. In total we aim to support 20,000 children in DR Congo over the coming years.

 We are particularly proud to be fighting sexual violence and gender-based discrimination in Lusenda. Our six-month pilot project called “Tackling Period Poverty” will train young women to sew sanitary towels and make soap which they can sell at a profit. As well as improving basic hygiene, this will give women more economic dependence to support themselves and their children’s education. Our work in the DRC comes at an important time and we are ready to focus all our efforts into supporting these communities.

We are particularly proud to be fighting sexual violence and gender-based discrimination in Lusenda. Our six-month pilot project called “Tackling Period Poverty” will train young women to sew sanitary towels and make soap which they can sell at a profit. As well as improving basic hygiene, this will give women more economic dependence to support themselves and their children’s education. Our work in the DRC comes at an important time and we are ready to focus all our efforts into supporting these communities.

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Belize’s Story: Sewing Up Old Wounds

Belize* arrived in Lusenda refugee camp in July 2015, fleeing political unrest and a humanitarian crisis in Burundi. She is only 19 years old has a 2-year-old son which she cares for herself as the father is not around. Having arrived at the camp alone, scared and without any money she is most grateful for having been picked amongst many other extremely vulnerable women to learn tailoring and soap-making skills through the Period Poverty Project. Today she is able to make clothes (Belize is wearing her own creation in the picture!) and sell these to other women in the camp for a profit. Being able to make an income has transformed her life in the camp. She has bought food, shoes and is halfway to being the owner of her own piece of land where she hopes to build her own house one day. Belize also explains how the programme has been essential in giving her the means to look after her health and that of her son’s, help her four brothers with their school fees but also in giving her power to make a living without depending on others generosity.

Furthermore, the sanitary towels have helped fill the gap in menstrual hygiene needs in the camp for herself and other women. She hopes her son will get to study and become a teacher or a doctor.

 
Anne Beuken