Working Together is Success: Men and Women for Socioeconomic Development

No one can do everything at the same time in a successful way. We all know that communities are made of men and women, and children too. So if all of us can aim development, this can be a huge success because each of us will contribute depending on their capacity. If only one side is involved, the other that has been excluded will not be happy. We need all of us to be happy through supporting one another. So, being against abuse toward women makes sense since they are our mothers, our wives, our sisters, our daughters and our friends and neighbors; one village should be one people united. One head is like a torn pocket, but two heads are better than one.”

Alphonse Mushamuka, a village leader in Kajucu village, in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) stated. It is obvious that some men cause women to suffer, but there are also many others who oppose such situation. The role of men and boys, though being the minority of the members, remains crucial for the development of the women in their villages, and for sure this has brought success of this organization.

Congolese Females Action for Promoting Rights and Development (COFAPRI ) is a women’s organization which was co-founded by husband and wife and a team, Mugisho Theophile and Valerie Bahati, in 2009, in order to empower women and children survivors of war rape and domestic violence, who have been marginalized, abused, discriminated and thought not to sustainably develop themselves, in the villages of the DRC. The COFAPRI empowers victimized village women through income generating activities, such as sewing, cultivation, animal rearing and small business, and also help women to learn literacy and numeracy as such skills help them to improve their social and economic engagement. COFAPRI also empowers the war rape born children and victims of domestic discrimination by enroll them with a local school, and supporting with school fees and materials.

Even if the COFAPRI was formed as a women’s organization with the majority of women and girls, now some members are men, because village women were in view of that having men is needed since each side needs the other. Nsimire Cibalonza Herenestine, a female member of COFAPRI stated that:

“All of us men, women and children live in our villages here and we know well one another. We need to empower one another, ourselves, our villages and our community. This means that since our villages are made of men, women and children, we should not be discriminatory though we often suffer discrimination in the society and in the homes. COFAPRI is here for all of us, we have to unite the force of our brains and that of our hands to build a harmonious community where you and I can breathe happily and walk freely. What we women and our daughters suffer is caused by some men, of the society; so, the solution needs men and women to sit in the same circle and see what can be done to address this.”

Developing of skills of women does not complete women empowerment until social recognition is gained which finds a space for women in the society.  COFAPRI strives to create a social recognition for each woman who undergoes capacity building programmes of COFAPRI. As an example, all women who completed sewing life skill programme graduated at the end of their training, on every occasion, in a ceremony, where they are awarded their certificates in the presence of local leaders. These leaders, who are men, are proud of the steps already done in women empowerment and at once, a traditional local leader Mr. Cishugi Pascal in Nyangezi stated that,

“We are all proud of what this organization is doing for women. Through these efforts, the women in these villages have gained knowledge and skills to develop themselves in the society. It is commendable what these women, girls and children are contributing to and gaining from, what they have received from COFAPRI. Not only myself, but everyone in the village is proud of themselves and if each other. Through the support of this organization the women are setting the foundation for their future generation in the villages. I have always admired how girls and women learn sewing in the sewing centres which I have visited several times. This incredible achievement makes us all proud.”

The women of COFAPRI are delighted with their unity, courage, commitment toward their development and achievements and believe that they are able to reach further than expected with the support of men.

“Organize us and we can try and you will see we can do great things. The issue with some men is that they never trust us with experience. Men should let us show them what we are able to do, in case we fail then we join efforts. We are an incredible source of development COFAPRI will never regret. We have nothing as money, but with our heads and hard work spirit we will build a solid foundation for our generations to come to build on. That is what we can, but with men we can do more than this.”

If men and women can join heads and hands, they can reach out to great achievements for themselves, their families and communities. Despite COFAPRI is a grassroots organization, it still needs support from men and boys since their families and community is made of both the genders. One gender cannot fully develop an area by neglecting the other. Both can achieve a lot for everyone to feel empowered and integrated.

Mr. Mugisho Ndabuli Theophile

Mr. Mugisho Ndabuli Theophile from DR Congo is the Co-Founder of COFAPRI – Congolese Females Action for Promoting Rights and Development. Co-Founding together with his wife Ms. Bahati Valerie in 2009, through the organization they work to empower women and children in rural DR Congo. Mr. Theophile holds degrees in General Education in Applied English, a Masters in Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies, and is presently pursuing his doctoral studies Gender and Development. His experiences involve teaching, prolific writing, research and training. He is also a teacher for the American University programme Kepler in Kigali-Rwanda. Mr. Theophile has produced number of published scientific articles and blogs, as well as books, which mostly deal with women issues.