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Published on 29 November 2023

'With the help of the Lord...I will improve and go very far in my business.'

Gloria (not her real name) used to farm cassava with other women in a field near her village in South Kivu, Eastern Congo, until one day the 35-year-old mother of nine and two other women were viciously assaulted by members of one of South Kivu’s many armed groups.

There were three of us weeding the cassava field. We saw a group of six armed men coming towards us. They forced us to undress and they raped us,” Gloria said.  

All three women were left badly injured in the field until their husbands, found them later that evening. 

My husband took me to the hospital and a month later, he decided that we should move because the risk of being raped again was still there,” Gloria explained. 

In her new village Gloria met Christian Aid’s local partner SARCAF (Service d’Accompagnement et de Renforcement des Capacités d’Auto promotion de la Femme au Sud- Kivu). With funding from Irish Aid, SARCAF runs community awareness raising sessions on gender-based violence, which also include information on the services they provide for survivors. 

Gloria says that the support of SARCAF helped her on her journey of recovery. It was through the community sessions that Gloria met with one of SARCAF’s counsellors who provided Gloria with psychological and emotional support for nearly four months.  

In the months and years that followed, sustained support from SARCAF also helped Gloria build a new life for herself. Gloria took part in a training session to help her be able to start up a business. Gloria was surprised to find that some of the other women participating were also survivors of sexual violence, something which she says helped her to feel less alone in the trauma she was dealing with.  

I found other women there that I knew and which I did not know had also been subjected to such violence. I felt completely healed since I understood that I was not alone and that there are others who went through even worse situations than mine.

- Gloria.

After the training, Gloria received $75 from SARCAF, thanks to funding from Irish Aid, to help her kickstart a small business to earn an income to be able to support her family. Gloria used the money to buy cassava flour which she began selling to fellow villagers. 

A year later, Gloria took part in a bread making training course run by another organisation which SARCAF linked her with. With her savings from the sale of the flour, she had an oven built to be able to bake bread and bought more flour as well as had a mold made for shaping the dough. With her new equipment and skills, Gloria began making home-made bread which she says has gone down a treat amongst the local community, and she has been able to use her savings from the sale of the bread to help her children receive an education.  

"I began to make the bread to the great satisfaction of the community. I earn $50 a month and I can pay to send my children to school," she said. 

Image credits and information i
Gloria baking bread using the oven she had built with the savings she made from the flour she sold. Credit: Credit: SARCAF/Christophe Muzaliwa.
Woman bakes bread in Eastern Congo

Gloria also received training from SARCAF on how to set up and run a village savings and loan scheme which allows members to save money as well as to borrow from this collective fund to pay for emergency expenses, such as medical care, as well as to set up or expand a business.  
Initially there were 12 members in the group, which has since grown to 34 members made up of people from the local community, amongst them other survivors of gender-based violence like Gloria, as well as farmers, herders and traders.  

Village savings and loans schemes are very beneficial to our community. They reduce poverty in families and increase women’s financial independence because now they can contribute to household costs and no longer depend on their husbands.

- Gloria.

Through her membership of the savings scheme, Gloria was able to save up to buy a plot of land where she later built a new house. As Gloria explains, she hopes to be able to further grow her business from her new home.  

This year I bought sheets and boards and I built a house. In the future, I have it in my mind to create a cafeteria. I also intend to create a wholesale bread store in my house where shopkeepers can stock up and resell,” Gloria said.  

With the help of the Lord and with the support from SARCAF I will improve and go very far in my business.”  

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