Archive for the ‘Women for Women International’ Category

News to Know

This week’s must-read news stories


Quagmire in East Set to Blight DRC Elections
July 22, 2011 IRIN NEWS
Armed groups continue to operate more than three years after signing a peace deal aimed at bringing stability; the continued violence threatens the country’s chance of holding free and fair elections this November. Full Story Here…
RELATED: Insecurity Across the Kivus Local representatives offer a dramatically different view from UN officials. Full Story Here…

Race car driver Jeff Gordon Headed to Congo
July 16, 2011 YAHOO SPORTS, Jay Busbee
In a sign that awareness about Congo is rising, a NASCAR champion will visit refugee camps during his week off. Full Story Here…

Putting Smiles Back on Women’s Faces
July 18, 2011 AFP, Emmanuel Peuchot
Many of us have a “sister” in Congo through Women for Women InternationalAFP reports that those sponsorship efforts do make a difference.  Full Story Here…


Sole Female Cabinet Minister in Somalia Kidnapped By Rebel Group
July 21, 2011 FOX NEWS, Edmund DeMarche
Family members believe Asha Osman Aqiil is being held and interrogated by the militant group al Shebab. Full Story Here…

No Safe Place For Somali Women Refugees in Kenya
July 16, 2011 VOICE OF AMERICA, Gabe Joselow
Maternity wards in Kenyan refugee camps report an increasing number of pregnant refugees fleeing the worsening drought in Somalia. Full Story Here…

A Very Congo Christmas

They told Francisca not to come home for Christmas. Too dangerous.  This is not a generalized sense of paranoia that hangs in the air in a war zone, but because of what happened last year.

            Francisca, a Congolese ex-pat and fellow Portland Run for Congo Women organizer, comes from Dungu, a small town in the far northeastern corner of Congo, nestled on the borders of Sudan and Uganda.  The notorious Ugandan militia the Lord’s Resistance Army has spread into Congo and south Sudan over the past couple of years. On Christmas Day 2008, four of Francisca’s Aunties and Uncles attended Christmas Mass.  The LRA showed up, and killed them along with all 400 people attending the holiday service.

            This year, the LRA have sent written threats announcing their plan to “celebrate” again.

            Why would anyone living under daily threat of attack choose to attend a holiday service?  One of my most striking first impressions of the Congolese was their fervent Christian faith. For instance, when I visited the village of Kaniola, pounded by twice weekly massacres by the Interahamwe (the militia responsible for the Rwandan genocide- still killing people), I was dumbfounded to find most villagers dressed to the nines- belts, loafers, suit jackets, dresses with lace trim.  Then I realized it was Sunday morning. They were heading to church. On another occasion, I asked a sister I sponsor through Women for Women, about the first thing she said to her children when she woke up in the hospital following an off-the-charts massacre that claimed the lives of her husband and nine year old son.  She replied, “I told them to Thank God. I lived.”

            How is it that in Congo, people who face some of the worst violence known to humanity, could maintain such strong faith, when our faith feels like it is stretched to its limit by a cheating boyfriend or a drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average?  I’m not religious, so I’ won’t posture like an authority.  Instead, the observations of renowned psychiatrist and Jewish Holocaust survivor Viktor Frank may shed some light.  “The religious interest of the prisoners…was the most sincere imaginable.  The depth and vigor of religious belief often surprised and moved the new arrival…The last inner freedom cannot be lost.  It can be said that they were worthy of their suffering; the way they bore their suffering was a genuine human achievement. It was this spiritual freedom- which cannot be taken away- that makes life meaningful and purposeful.”

            In the face of overwhelming international news, as we are tempted to shut down and tune out, perhaps we can draw some inspiration from this kind of faith. We may not be able to waive a magic wand and make mass atrocity go away, but do we not we each possess that last of human freedoms to choose our reaction to it? In this way, is activism not an act of faith?

            This Christmas, Congo will be back in the national spotlight.  Oprah will be re-airing the show on Half the Sky and Congo, on which I appeared in the fall (your regular local time and station).  So this holiday, as you wait out the post meal bloat, go for another round of pie, or snuggle up with a loved one (the Congolese would not fault you any of it- in the face of everything, they still know how to party!)- or if you’re hunkered down avoiding all things tinsel and lights- consider watching Oprah and sharing Congo with your family and friends. Trust this simple act of faith will have reverberations beyond anything you can know, and will touch in you that last human freedoms. A beautiful way to celebrate!

            Happy holidays!

A question from Cody, age 17: What is the role for men in a movement called “Women for Women”?

Dear Lisa,

My mom and I have applied to sponsor one woman in the Congo after we had seen several shows. I am 17 , live with my single mom and I am going to college. I recently had a ‘celebration lunch’ with my mom for passing all my first mid-tems for this year. After seeing Oprah’s show again the other day we decided to take that money we normally use to treat ourselves out to lunch or dinner and sponsor one woman. My mom and I live on only $1400 a month. Below the poverty line for many. We have a car that has almost 275K miles on it. We are living in a friend’s house right now because we can’t find a rental we can afford. BUT, we have a home, a full cupboard, a tank full of gas to get to school, a cell phone and two computers. When we think we are broke at the end of the month and think things are tough they really aren’t. We know that on the 1st of the month we will have money. We know that we can get a loan for school books. We know that there are programs to help us if we really didn’t have food. Really, we have a lot.
My mom was most moved to do something when she saw that you actually met the woman that ‘Women for Women’ is helping. You always wonder if the money is really going to help people. You always wonder if your money is really doing good. Seeing those women with their letters from their ‘sisters’ was very touching.
I have another male friend that plays music with me. Today we told him that we had chosen to sponsor a woman. After looking at the site he decided he wants to too. But what is the role of men in ‘women for women.’. For me and my mother we are doing it as a family decision and project but what about for my friend?

Thank you for your reply,

Dear Cody,
I am so moved by your note, and so proud of you, your mom, and your musician buddy!!! What a beautiful family you have, what a wonderful act. I am so inspired!!!

In terms of your friend, we welcome and celebrate men’s involvement! Men can sponsor women in Congo, too! Men also participate in Run for Congo Women all the time. I think its amazing- and critical- for young men to stand up against violence against women. Bravo to you and your buddy!

With my deepest  gratitude,

Messages from our Congo Sisters

When I met with hundreds of our sisters in Congo, I asked them what they would like to tell American women, and those who Run for Congo Women. In these directly transcribed lines, here is what they said:

We send warm greetings.
We really need them.
If they can’t write, please send photos.
We’re very happy to you, Lisa
And for all the other women, for all the women
who accept to make their bodies suffer because we suffer.
Give our thanks to them, tell them we are together.
We should remain sharing all our feelings.
We love them so much.
We know war in Congo is not near to finished,
So we ask them to ask the government to help stop the war.
To the government, we pray they do whatever they can
So the war can end, and people in poverty
because of the war can feel they are also
human beings, the dignity of being human.
Be blessed, Government of the U.S.

I lost all things, burnt. I lost dignity.
You dignified me.
I became seller of beans and flowers.
I regained joy.
The help you are sending helps us to be human beings, really.
If you could open my heart to see how happy I am to see you.
I am buying hens. Whenever I am hungry now, I slaughter one.
If I was a bird, I would fly and meet you in America.
I’m feeling as if I’m getting fat.
Since meeting you in the morning,
I’m fat with joy.
I cook doughnuts.
We no longer rent. We got our own land.
I pay them to work on my farm.
I’m hopeful. At harvest, I will rejoice.
Today I can really breastfeed my baby because I am eating well.
If my kid grows up, it is because of support from you.
When I heard you were running, I found it was really true love.
When I learned you were coming, I was waiting.
I don’t know what measurement I can use to measure my joy.
I feel somehow a person in life, a woman in life.
I didn’t think I would feel like other women.
You have to continue up to the coming of Jesus.
Thanks, thanks, thanks.
I don’t know how to express my joy. I don’t know how.
May god bless and bless and bless and bless.
What I receive makes me feel like a woman now.
It doesn’t arrive every day to be in this kind of joy. But I am really happy.

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