Through IRC supported women's groups, survivors of violence and other vulnerable women can access help with literacy, microcredit and lending, buying and raising animals, making soap, selling beignets and other wares, farming and starting their own small businesses.
The cheering of participants in an IRC-supported literacy group puts a smile on a woman's face as she works hard to remember how to write a word properly. According to UNESCO, more than 65 percent of Congolese women over the age of 15 were illiterate in 2010. Women in Congo are twice as likely to be illiterate than men.
Angel, in a blue headscarf, oversees the election of new leaders for an IRC-supported women's group in South Kivu. Those who are still working toward literacy use their thumb print instead of a signature. Thumb prints are not permitted in official government elections, barring these women from participating and influencing the leadership of their country.
Participants in IRC savings and loans programs pool their money and distribute loans to individual members who then invest in small businesses and pay the loan back with interest. Increased income means they can provide more food for their families, send their children to school, and install durable roofing in their homes—raising their status in their households and communities.
"I am proud to be a woman in DRC now because I have rights and people listen to me now," says one women's group participant. Literacy classes help women to run their own small businesses, manage their money, participate in voting, and move toward equity.