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An Education to Empower Women in eastern Congo

When Christian Bilingual University of Congo alumni Francine Nabintu grew up in eastern Congo, she never thought she would one day be selected for the McCain Institute’s prestigious fellowship program “Next Generation Leaders” that would offer her the career she had always dreamt of:

“Thirty years ago, the idea of a Congolese woman moving to the United States with her family for a fellowship program would have been an unimaginable dream. But it was also unimaginable that I would have an opportunity to go back to school when I was pregnant. Education opened doors for me.” 

Francine graduated from UCBC, which is based in Béni in North Kivu and whose mission is to cultivate leaders through the integration of academics, work, and service. Supported by ECI, the university now hosts the largest ratio of computers to students in the country, a growing library, and projects with the Integrated Research Institute program.

Today Francine is a Fellow at Futures Without Violence in San Francisco where she is in charge of developing a Leadership Action Plan that aims to engage men and women to change gender norms in Congo.

And to get where she is today, she had to fight against gender norms herself: 

“I still remember when I was a little girl how my brothers and other family members used to discourage me not to go further in education otherwise I couldn’t get married. ‘You are like a lawyer or a journalist yet you haven’t been in university, be careful you are a woman, men don’t like such behavior,’ they warned me several times.”

Despite the challenges, Francine was determined to continue her studies and fulfill her dream of having a successful career – and she credits ECI partner UCBC for the leadership skills that helped her on her way:

“I always believe that we need character-driven leaders all over the world to make a positive change. I couldn’t help applying for “Next Generation Leaders” after reading the great opportunities that it offers: meet with other emerging leaders from other parts of the world and being empowered.”

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