By Paul Fagan
2014 looks set to be another exciting year at Eastern Congo Initiative.
Since assuming the role of Executive Director five months ago I’ve already witnessed much of the extraordinary work being undertaken by our partners in eastern Congo. We provide grants to Congolese community-based organizations working effectively to create new opportunities for the people of eastern Congo. ECI supports innovative programs that address local needs with locally identified solutions.
As the New Year begins, I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to ECI’s fantastic new Congolese community-based partners. We are very excited to support the development of these outstanding community champions in addition to our existing partners, providing the technical training they need to improve their efficacy, broaden their impact, and hone their ability to attract further investment.
Please ‘like’ Eastern Congo Initiative on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to receive updates on our partners’ efforts this year. We are proud to support these incredible organizations’ vital work in eastern Congo.
Promo Jeune Basket (PJB) – Engaging Congolese Youth through Sport
An important focus of our work is to support and create opportunities for Congolese youth. Most young Congolese, like kids around the world, love sport. Basketball is hugely popular in DRC like in the United States (Dikembe Mutombo, anyone?), and is a common unifier in DRC. This is why ECI is supporting Promo Jeune Basket (PJB), a Goma-based CBO that uses basketball as a medium to instill civic values, positive leadership and teamwork in youth. PJB also provides scholarships to players who show commitment through ethics and determination. This year, ECI will help PJB increase the number of children it offers coaching to from 500 to 700, and provide 20 scholarships to vulnerable children.
Group for the Education and Training of the Victims of Nyiragongo (ETN) – Providing vocational training and support for former child soldiers
For former child soldiers and other vulnerable children, reintegration into the community is even more difficult. Stigmatized by their communities, rejected by their families and friends, and with little professional experience or skills, these children face immense obstacles to returning to civilian life. ECI partner, Group for the Education and Training of the Victims of Nyiragongo (ETN) provides vocational skills training and psychosocial support to former child soldiers and vulnerable children across North Kivu, to support their long-term socioeconomic reintegration. In this project supported by ECI, ETN will offer psychosocial support and skills training to 100 at-risk teenagers, and fund an apprenticeship scheme for graduates of last year’s training workshop in areas such as sewing, carpentry and mechanics.
Women’s Media Association (AFEM) – Training rural Congolese women in journalism and storytelling
Women form the backbone of any society, but Congolese women play an integral role in so many facets of life. However, women are underrepresented in leadership roles. In an effort to promote more women in leadership positions, ECI supports several women’s organizations. ECI’s new partner, Women’s Media Association (AFEM), is a network of female journalists scattered across South Kivu, who work together to provide training to rural women to create radio broadcasts that identify and discuss the challenges facing women in eastern Congo. In particular, AFEM works closely with conflict-affected communities and vulnerable women, promoting gender equality and challenging sexual and gender-based violence. AFEM will expand and continue their current work in partnership with ECI, establishing eight new ‘radio clubs’ to support the 24 that are already in place, to train 100 rural women in information collection techniques, recording, editing and production, and provide basic recording equipment.
Action d’Espoir (ADE) – Empowering women farmers and promoting equality in land ownership
Action d’Espoir (ADE) or ‘Action for Hope, provides technical support and capacity building to farmers and cooperatives in South Kivu province, with a particular focus on empowering women and promoting gender equality in land ownership. Kabare is one of these territories, where malnutrition rates have soared due to conflict, mass population movement, soil erosion and poor farming practices. ECI supports ADE to build the farming and marketing technical capacity of 300 rural women farmers in Kabare to increase the quality and quantity of their crop production, generate additional income and in turn increase quality of life for their families.
Network for Security Sector Reform and Justice (RRSSJ) – Advocating for comprehensive reform of the Congolese Security Sector
One of the biggest problems and that impacts all Congolese is the lack of security, particularly in the east of the country. ECI has partnered with Network for Security Sector Reform and Justice (RRSSJ), which is one of the most influential Congolese advocacy organizations, engaging in strategic activism on the local, regional, national and international level to demand reform of the Congolese national army and police force. Based in Kinshasa with regional offices in all 11 provinces of the DRC, this dedicated team of researchers and activists are passionate about stability in the country and are leading experts on the reforms needed to drive the process of stabilization and decentralization. ECI will support RRSSJ to engage in a 12-month campaign to advocate for full implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework in the DRC, particularly as it relates to security sector reform.
Paul Fagan is the Executive Director at Eastern Congo Initiative, and manages the organization from Washington, D.C.