Rebuilding Women’s Hope in the DRC, a profile of founder Marcelline Budza
In May of 2015 I traveled to the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a member of On The Ground’s Run Across Congo to run 7 marathons in 7 days across the country. With every step I had to will myself to take another, and then another, and then another… for 183 miles. The Run Across Congo team consisted of nine women from all over the United States, most of whom had personal ties to the DRC, through coffee, adoptive children, or simply a passion for helping women. The purpose of Run Across Congo was to raise money and spotlight this violent and turbulent period for women in the DRC.
While in Bukavu, after having completed the marathons, I attended Saveur du Kivu, the first-ever coffee cupping competition in the country. Saveur du Kivu was intended to highlight the reemergence of specialty coffee in the DRC and promote collectivity, improvement, and inclusion of women in coffee processing. That’s where I met Marcelline Budza. Marcelline is a 25 year old woman who grew up in Bukavu during one of the most violent periods in the history of the DRC. Her father left her family when she was three and, the youngest of four girls, the economic and social struggles faced by her mother drove her to pursue agronomy studies at University. She was inspired to create Rebuild Women Hope (RWH) to help women take charge of their lives and respond with intent to the daily suffering, persecution, poverty, and violation of rights women face in her society.
Traditionally in the DRC, women are considered less valuable than men; women are merely an instrument of sexual satisfaction, a producer of children, and incapable of dignified work that would contribute to the needs of her family and community. RWH was born out of the desire to combat this idea through uniting female coffee producers who are fighting against gender inequality and re-establishing the value of women’s work. For that reason, RWH works to create a spirit of entrepreneurship and self-management in order to raise the standard of living in their communities and communities across the nation. A community where women are empowered is a thriving community.
Rebuild Women Hope believes that building the hope of a women is building the hope of a nation.
Vision: To place women at the center of the integral development of the community.
Goal 1: Reduce the rate of poverty among coffee producing women in RWH communities.
Goal 2: Develop in each woman a spirit of entrepreneurship and self-management.
Goal 3: Empower each woman to understand her duties and opportunities within her community.
In 2015, through a partnership with Coffeelac, RWH will launch a project to empower female coffee farmers in the DRC through access to training, equipment, and international coffee markets. RWH has already succeeded in registering more than 1,000 female farmers and identifying three future sites for the placement of income-generating activities for women.
To build on this process, RWH is currently seeking an investment of $35,000 to support women through this life-changing and community-building project. The project target for the first year is to train more than 1,000 women to become self-reliant business people. If the pilot proves successful, the goal for the second year is to raise additional funds to invest in the permanent establishment of the program and the activities surrounding it in order to increase their capacity in gender balance.
I have no doubt that this project will work. Marcelline had a soft voice and a gentle presence, but when she spoke, everyone listened. She drew a crowd with her eloquence and obvious intelligence, and circumstantiated the need for her organization in the DRC, a fact that was apparent to me from my few weeks there.