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Furnish a Congo Refuge: From Sexual Violence to Good Health



Our goal
Give safety to 22 victims of violence and health education to hundreds of girls and women
The Challenge

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been called “the rape capital of the world.” Broken bodies and shattered lives, limited health education and expensive health care… spell daily suffering for many girls and women.  And often early death.

The Project

Woman, Cradle of Abundance (FEBA) in Kinshasa, DRC, works to care for victims of rape and abuse, and to educate and support girls and women in learning how to make healthy lives for themselves and their families.  The leaders do this using their own crowded homes, but the number whom they have been able to assist has been limited. The space for education about diseases such as AIDS and malnutrition, or for counseling and family planning, has been inadequate. Seeing the orphans they have been forced to turn away is heartbreaking.  Now they have a new building – they will be able to move in… as soon as the furnishings are available.  It is an empty house – but with your help, they will have a home!!!

The Goal

The goal is $7000.  To achieve this through small fundraising efforts could take six to nine months.  In that interval, fifty or more women and girls would still be on the streets or begging for a roof over their heads.  With furnishings for the Women’s Center, classes can start immediately and the clients can move into safety and begin benefiting from the shelter as soon as the paint is dry!

The Story

Sexual violence against girls and women is rampant in Congo, exacerbated by decades of dictatorial rule and frequent armed conflict.  The current political tensions and resulting economic distress affect everyone, but especially women and girl children.  As rape has become a weapon of war, the cost in flagrant disregard for the human rights of girls and women is a daily experience in many communities.  While this is worst in eastern Congo (averaging 36 rapes/day), the overflow of that conflict is felt in the capital, Kinshasa. There refugees increase the already difficult situation of a huge urban area (10 million) where abject poverty and traditional patriarchal customs contribute to domestic abuse, rape, and child prostitution.

Violence and destitution in turn enable diseases like HIV-AIDS to spread widely, and leave widows and orphans sick and starving. Refuge, medical care, and counseling for victims of sexual assault are almost non-existent. In a strongly patriarchal society sexual violence is rarely recognized for the significant social problem it is; thus shelters and assistance for battered women are virtually unimaginable. In African tradition a woman's value is measured by how many children she bears, so family planning is unthinkable and women’s health is constantly compromised. Yet some brave women have identified and spoken out and acted!

Woman Cradle of Abundance (Femme Berceau de l’Abondance/ FEBA) is a small non-profit in Kinshasa.  Each week ten or more girls and women, victims of domestic assault, street violence, forced prostitution, abandonment, come seeking help. FEBA was founded and is run by Congolese women who themselves have experienced various forms of violence and discrimination. They provide counseling and assistance in getting medical care for injuries and chronic conditions such as HIV-AIDS.  Rarely can a victim return to her home – if she had one: some are AIDS orphans living on the street, prey to anyone stronger, prey to anyone who promises something to eat.

A Successful Rescue: Gloria was a young girl from the provinces whose parents married her to a well-off but unknown city man in Kinshasa. She arrived to discover he was 50 years old, with a wife and grown children; she was to be the second wife-drudge. (Polygamy is illegal but common.) After sexual abuse and near starvation Gloria fled, finding shelter at the home of Mme Monique, the president of FEBA. Mme Monique took Gloria to the hospital for medical treatment, and then provided refuge and trauma counseling. Gloria’s husband demanded her return but Mme Monique insisted he provide legal proof that Gloria was his wife… which was, of course, impossible, so Gloria was able to defy the man. FEBA then helped her continue her education to become self-sufficient so she would not be married off again against her will. Gloria is free and well and independent!

Health Education: FEBA educates girls and women - and men! - about family planning. Wives are powerless to say "no" to endless pregnancies and often keep bearing child after child far beyond their own strength or ability to feed and educate. FEBA offers all its1200 members education about nutrition and preventive health care, when possible assisting them with over the counter medications like vitamins. No one can afford to be ill, or she will starve; if a woman has orphaned grandchildren, the whole family may starve.  Here leaders of FEBA divide up a donation of calcium and vitamin B tablets to give some to each woman over 50 and explain the proper use.

A Family Planning Success Story: Mrs. Jeannette Boyata is a beautiful young woman who recently completed the sewing school training which FEBA offers and is now able to contribute to her family’s income. Equally significant is the fact that FEBA taught Mrs. Boyata about family planning; she and her husband agreed that they would have only three children.  They can provide education for their children and the whole family is healthy!

FEBA's Women's Center = A place for refuge and health: that is the first and most urgent request which FEBA has expressed to its international friends. The Center will shelter up to twenty-two girls and women and provide facilities for private counseling for many more.  Its health station will be a first resort for medical assistance: someone to help access what limited care is available for the very poor. Its classrooms will host classes in family planning, nutrition and wellness, HIV-AIDS prevention. They will also provide proper facilities for their special training programs, such as equipping women to identify signs of AIDS and accompany those living with it.

FEBA has a partner in the USA, also named “Woman Cradle of Abundance, Inc" (or FEBA, Inc.), a small, all-volunteer 501(c)3 founded in 2013. It is headed by Congo-born Elsie McKee, Ph.D., a professor of history at Princeton Theological Seminary. For more information about all the projects and people, see our website. www.WomanCradleofAbundance.org

The purchase of land and the design and construction of this facility have been financed by private donations, gathered through fundraisers, a capital campaign drive, and gifts by FEBA members in Congo and especially in the USA. Benefit concerts by five-time Grammy nominee jazz star Karryn Allyson launched and supported the capital campaign.

The realization of the Center, aptly named Tomisunga (Lingala for “We Help Each Other”), has been two and one half years from the purchase of the land.  Delays have been caused by extreme weather conditions (torrential rains in addition to the regular rainy seasons), as well as ever-increasing inflation.To receive its new clients, the Women’s Center needs furnishings: beds, linens, and kitchen equipment; comfortable chairs for a counseling room; tables and chairs for classrooms; office equipment for a health education station.

The architect offers a vision of what the Center will look like – though his drawing omits the crowded neighborhood surrounding Tomisunga!

Members of FEBA-USA visit the construction site of Centre Tomisunga and talk with Congolese colleagues and the architect, July 2015.


           R: The Centre approaching completion, Dec. 2016

Specific Needs: The bedrooms need bunk or double beds and cupboards to provide space for each woman to keep her clothes or a few possessions. These can be ordered from local woodworkers.  The common space which will serve both for meetings and for meals needs tables and chairs; the kitchen needs a full set of pots and pans, tableware and dishes, a refrigerator. The counseling room needs comfortable chairs, a coffee table, and at least one cabinet for counseling materials. The nursing station needs office furniture and cabinets for supplies and records.

Choose a gift for the Women's Center - and we will wrap it with a bow!

$15 - a towel and washcloth (need 30)

$30 - sheets for 1 bunk bed (need 12)

$45 - sheets for 1 double bed (need 10)

$50 - 2 chairs (need 24)

$70 - chalkboard and erasers (need 3)

$100 - 1 dining table (need 4)

$120 - 4 cooking pots for the kitchen (need 10)

$200 - large cupboards (kitchen and bedrooms - need 5)

$200 - double beds (need 6)

$250 - bunk beds (need 6)

$250 - set of tableware for 25 people

$500 - refrigerator

$800 - office equipment for nursing station

$1000 - sofa and 2 chairs and coffee table for counseling room

Video clip of Monique telling about rape https://filr.ptsem.edu:443/ssf/s/readFile/share/22129/6788969954967773369/publicLink/New%20Project%203.mov

Be the answer to a young girl’s desperate cry for a safe bed! Be the answer to women who cannot imagine having a real classroom to learn how to care for their bodies and their families.  Be the answer....!

See how far we've come

Our milestones
  • Christo

  • Johanna

  • Liam

  • Felipe

  • Beth

  • Justyna

  • Gordon

  • Karen


Thank you, CaringCrowd community.
Your pledges will help make change possible.