"Succeeding Together" is a comprehensive program that helps single mothers build a better life for themselves, their children, and their communities.
Mothers of children born outside of marriage are left to the periphery of society. They hold no position of respect, and live in abject poverty with no hope for a better life. There isn't even a common word for "unwed mother" in the DRC -- the term means "girl mother" at best, and it demonstrates that these women are not held in any esteem.
The people at HOLD-DRC think these women have tremendous value.
Succeeding Together involves seven months of comprehensive training -- where women are certified with a marketable skill, learn money management, and receive business training. They are taught about reproductive health and early childhood development. They learn basic hygiene regarding how communicable diseases spread and how to care for diseases that are common, preventable causes of death in Congo. They practice communication and leadership skills, and they learn to trust and support one another.
Together, they become leaders in their community. Their training includes:
- Earning an accredited associate's degree in tailoring, cosmetology, or culinary arts.
- Training in how to run a business.
- Leadership skills, with focus on governance and peer education in human rights and basic health. This includes malaria prevention, HIV prevention, reproductive health, and how to avoid and care for common illnesses such as diarrhea and respiratory infections.
- Training in early childhood development. HOLD-DRC also runs a daycare for mothers who are studying in their programs. They learn new parenting skills as they volunteer. Day care centers are mostly unknown in the DRC.
- Peer support and opportunities to exercise leadership.
- An advocacy network and support system
- Peer support in growing their businesses and establishing a credit history.
These women join a Human Development Club of about ten other women who are living in her neighborhood who support each other as they keep life going for their families. They support each other to start and grow their businesses after they graduate. They are not alone when they finish the program, and this support system helps them to address their individual needs.
Some of the women have persistent problems that are not solved simply by their new knowledge and skills. Making changes and transitioning into a newly empowered life is a process. To give these women the emotional and legal support they need, HOLD provides Mediation and Counseling to help women transform difficulties they have with their families or communities.
The graduates also take part in Peer Leadership, which can take many forms. HOLD's Peer Educators teach people in the community about health and their rights under new Congolese law. The Cultural Club might teach about conflict resolution or raise awareness about women's rights by performing drama or music in local churches. The Environmental Club might clean up a neighborhood or plant urban gardens and teach the community about the benefits of composting.
The graduates share what they learned to empower other women in their communites, and together they have a growing impact. Their lives are changed, their communities are stronger, and Congo has a better future.