Sewing center nurtures girls, women in Congo

A United Methodist sewing center is reaching out to 20 schoolgirls, as well as adult women, who are learning a new skill and, ultimately, contributing to the future of their country’s economic development.

The center welcomes schoolgirls who cannot afford machines at home, as well as single mothers and school dropouts. At the end of their three-month internship, the schoolgirls are graded on their performance.

“We make women’s blouses, clerical shirts, stoles and pastoral robes for elders and deacons,” said supervisor Angel Nkulu.

Mukalay Senga said the girls  learn from one another and build relationships, socialize and share experiences while honing their sewing skills.

“My presence in the United Methodist center is to improve tailoring and make my own fashion,” Senga said.

Lumbala Chatty is excited about her new knowledge. “At the end of the internship,” she said, “I will be able to use the machine and … make clothes for my sisters and brothers and myself.”

Some of the women have been victims of sexual abuse. As they sew clothing for their children, they find a place of caring and healing from trauma.

United Methodist women in Lusenji, about 75 miles from Kamina, view the sewing center as a refuge for young women who married early and did not have a chance to go to school. The center offers them a place of empowerment and learning, teachers and church leaders said. When young women’s skills are developed in the community, they become role models for their peers, said the Rev. Mbuya Ngoy, district superintendent.

The sewing center plays a constructive role in increasing women’s self-esteem. Before enrolling in the classes, some of the women stayed at home while their husbands worked. They depended on their spouses as breadwinners. Now, the women sell their creations and contribute to their family income.

Until recently, clerical shirts, United Methodist Women blouses and altar cloths were ordered from Lubumbashi, 370 miles from Kamina. Today, the sewing center provides a quick solution as such items are sewn locally, saving time and money.

Across North Katanga, the United Methodist sewing center is offering opportunities for women to be empowered, share knowledge, challenge poverty and work toward greater equality.

Musau is secretary of the Central Congo Conference and health board chair of the North Katanga Conference.

News media contact: Vicki Brown, Nashville, Tennessee, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

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