The Mamans Hekima project
Association of Women MAMA HEKIMA
“Edited by Sr. Siobhan Boyle according to information received from Sr. Virginie Bitshanda, Sr. Valérie Kadiela and Sr. Jeanne Zoly Tiana”
Women supporting Women and Working together
Mamans Hekima is an exciting project involving groups of women in Kisangani in the DRC. The women first began to come together in 2012 to support each other in the daily challenges of their lives.
They began as a small group of women with great energy and enthusiasm. The women come from various backgrounds and faith traditions, but they all face similar challenges – financial challenges, education for their children, family illness and lack of knowledge and information on their rights.
In the Beginning …
Initially the women needed to overcome their uncertainties of each other due to their different backgrounds and faith traditions. However, with support, training and encouragement they were soon working together. Financial constraints are one of the greatest challenges facing these women and they wanted to develop ways of increase their own financial independence.
The women organise themselves in to groups of up to twenty women depending on their own interests.
At the end of 2017 the project received funding from Roncalli International Foundation (Roncalli) to enable more groups to be formed, to enable trainings to be organised and to purchase materials and equipment for income generating activities.
In 2018, two new groups were established, and the existing groups were strengthened.
Each group now has a management committee that supports the group and monitors the selling process of their products and merchandise and advises the group on the right time to sell their produce.
In 2018, one hundred and twenty women participated in the project. The women organised themselves in to six groups and participated in the various training opportunities offered by the project. These training sessions covered issues such as civic education, women’s rights, family planning, managing the family budget and managing their income generating activities projects.
The project has received very good local support with several of the trainers providing their services freely. Women’s contributions and income from the activities of the first projects contributed to this project.
Some of the challenges faced by the women during this time included a reduction in the paddy production and the instability of the electricity supply hampered the optimum sale of the rice produced.
What has changed?
Through the small but increased income realised from the sale of their produce the women now have greater economic independence and have greater control over the family finances.
They are now able to buy more food for their families, their children go to school more regularly, and they can bring their children to the local health clinic when they fall ill.
These women’s groups are taken as role models in their neighborhood. They gained greater self-esteem and respect in the community.
The influence of the project is visible. Several other women are interested and seeking our support, two groups of 20 women (40 women) have already organized themselves and are waiting for support to start their training.
The Next Steps….
There are still huge needs to provide additional training to sensitize the women and their families to all forms of exploitation made. There is an expressed wish from the women to provide additional training on family planning for themselves and their husbands.
The women also wish to develop their income generating activities so they can continue to provide educational opportunities for their children and to be able to undertake necessary and essential repairs on their homes.