Abandoned by her husband, Esperance Linda once worried how she would support her family. Thanks to a microfinance project initiated by United Methodist Women here, she is caring for her four children and teaching other young women to become self-supporting.
This is significant in a country where half of the people live below the poverty line. Many men do not have jobs, and women, some of whom are widowed or abandoned by their husbands, are among the hardest hit by poverty.
During the 2016 annual conference, Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda of the Eastern Congo Episcopal Area appointed the Rev. Marie Dundja to head women’s work in the Kivu Conference. Married and the mother of seven children, Dundja started an enterprise to help women like Linda.
She is a mentor to women as they learn to knit clothing, sew small bags and do arts and crafts projects such as mobiles and small sculptures. United Methodists across the connection donate materials. The ministry reaches several districts of the conference, including Goma, Beni, Uvira and Fizi.
The Rev. Omoy Wandjaka Henriette of Goma said she has trained more than 50 women in art projects and sewing. With her own money, she purchased two sewing machines for the Fizi and Beni districts. She also teaches women to manufacture and sell a liquid soap.
Kika Benda is one of the entrepreneurs. “I sell (the liquid soap) in hospitals and households,” she said. Benda, UMW president in the Uvira District, hopes to expand this activity to other areas. Already, the Rev. Veronique Mwayuma, women’s coordinator in East Congo, is encouraging other women to launch small businesses.
Delegates and visitors to the 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon, had opportunities to support the women by buying their crafts. Another exhibit is planned for a clergywomen’s gathering in Harare, Zimbabwe, in July 2018.
Kituka Lolonga is a communicator for the Kivu Conference.