In Congo, women form the core of their families, their livelihoods, their towns – they’re the backbone of Congolese culture. And the same is true for Asili.
In the communities where Asili operates, its women who run our businesses. From Dr. Ange our Medical Director, to Adrienne our head nurse, to Mama Faida who operates our water kiosk in Cirunga, to the incredible farmers who labor each and every day to put food on the table for their families, women make Asili work.
Its strong women who will lead Congo’s growth as a nation, too. According to research commissioned by Women for Women International, women in rural areas of Congo play a majority role in agricultural production, representing 73% of farmers and producing over 80% of food crops. Rural women spend an average of eight to nine hours a day in agricultural work, three to four hours in domestic work and two hours in fetching water and gathering firewood. There’s no question that these ladies are incredibly hardworking and resilient – and it’s this determination that will fuel Asili into the future.
“It is often said that if you educate a woman you educate a nation,” says Abraham Leno, Asili’s Country Director in Congo. “Women in the Congo are incredibly resilient, inspiring me each day with their earnest desire to live beyond survival. They have the will and the courage to turn things around for themselves and their families. My intention is to support them with tools and resources to keep growing their aspirations and hopes for a better tomorrow. It is the least I can do.”
Meet Destin. She’s 37, and she’s been working in the fields for 20 years. “My hope is for Congo to be a country that knows peace,” she says.
Vermilia has been a harvester for the past seven years, working in the fields of the Panzi area outside of Bukavu. A mother to five children, Vermilia is the sole breadwinner for her family, supporting herself, her husband and her children. With an infectious smile, Vermilia explained that she was simply happy to have the opportunity to work.
Esinam, age 26, has been working in the fields since she was 15 years old. A mother to four, she works each day to support herself, her children and her husband. “Due to this work I am respected in the community. They trust me,” she said.
Asili was designed for and with women like Destin, Vermilia, and Esinam. Our agricultural cooperatives help them leverage the hours they spend in the field into more productive yields and bigger impact. This extra income will go towards covering household needs like school fees, clothes, and food, but they’ll fuel participation in Asili health and water services, too.
The strength of Congolese women is a resource, an asset, which we’re boosting to make real, impactful change. They’re already doing the work – we’re just hoping to work alongside them.
“Though the youth is often considered the future, women are the foundation upon which that future will be built,” says Abraham. We couldn’t agree more.