Affecting Change in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Pacifique Lwabaguma, 27, was born in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) — one of Africa’s most impoverished and underdeveloped countries. As a child, Lwabaguma’s environment, shaped by poverty, war, violence, and murder, inspired him to make a difference for his people.
Lwabaguma’s experiences significantly differ from most people in the world. While children in the United States or a more developed nation might break a bone or lose a loved one growing up, Lwabaguma witnessed assassinations, rape, and women being burned alive.
Nevertheless, Lwabaguma refused to stay silent as atrocities impacted his community, with girls and women being targeted in particular. Along with fourteen others in the DRC, Lwabaguma started the organization, Human Rights Network for Development. Human Rights Network for Development concentrates on empowering women, fostering socio-economic development, and providing educational support to vulnerable members of the community.
Fighting for Human Rights in the DRC:
Many women that Lwabaguma and his team support live on under a dollar per day and are victims of rape or sexual slavery. Kidnapped by armed groups, the women are raped and violated. “They will insert metallic objects into the women and girls,” said Lwabaguma. “Some of the women are hung from trees and raped. Sometimes the children are raped.”
Despite its staggering poverty, the DRC is a mineral-rich nation, a primary cause of its constant conflict. “Many armed groups terrorize the land, occupy it, and exploit the resources we have.”, says Lwabaguma.
The majority of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s economy comes from agriculture. To help the traumatized women, Lwabaguma and his team provide training to teach them skills that can improve their health and quality of life. “With these women, it’s not a formal education we are giving them. Instead, we teach them to produce juice or chickens. Once they learn how to do it, they can feed themselves but can sell these things in the market to give them money.”
Bahati Serge, 24, from South Kivu, responsible for Human Rights Network for Development’s monitoring and evaluation, shared another way that they help women improve their lives. “We teach them to make baskets and sew, skills that empower them,” Serge said.
David Lwabaguma, 25, also from South Kivu, and the organization’s administration director said that giving the women hope in such a problematic, challenging, situation motivates him. “I hope we give them more than they expect, and they integrate into society better because of it,” he said.
Baraka Bellytran, 26, from South Kivu, is the team’s financial officer. He said that providing a means of income for the affected women is “great” because they have faced such hardship and “crisis.”
Guilaine Chimone, who runs the administration desk, helps with training the women and setting up workshops.
Together, Pacifique, Bahati, David, Baraka, and Guilaine, and the other team members perform their work without funding, paying for workshops, and training with their own money.
As a team, they are helping heal communities severely impacted by suffering and extreme poverty. Fighting back against the violence and brutality in the DRC with baskets, juice bottles, sewing machines, and more, Pacifique and his team make a difference, helping empower victims, changing and reshaping their lives for the better.