Judy's Corner: Teen Moms, Policy, and Politics in Congo.

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This month in Congo has been marked by public protests around the country objecting to a law which would bypass the Constitution and require a census (not officially done since Independence) before the next round of elections.  People have been killed, jailed and “taken into custody” and disappeared. Thee girls who are part of HOLD were injured; two are in the hospital today.  But politicians have listened to the voice of Congolese people.  They removed the requirement for a census. It's a start. This was achieved through advocacy and collaboration in Congo.  This is the result of grassroots organizing, courage, and hope. 

Our partner HOLD has been working at the local level to give voice to girls who’ve never been heard. HOLD teaches them that Congo needs their ability, and they’re learning how to work together for change…. HOLD also teaches the law, provides mechanisms to practice governance, voting on leadership and holding elected leaders accountable.

ACT for Congo supports integrated development partnerships that improve health and well-being for women and their communities.  HOLD-DRC’s vision for change in Congo targeted young girls in Goma who are single mothers, alone and facing the responsibilities of parenthood. Moms want to feed their kids.  Moms want to see their children have a future.  Our support includes frequent communications with HOLD leadership, encouragement, mentorship, accompaniment and introductions to new options. We rejoice in the triumphs and we mourn in the losses.

HOLD just began the 5th cohort with 85 young mothers.  421 women have already completed their training and been certificated by the state for their skills.  They all had children. Some have more than six children. Each of these children is better off because their mother has more ability to earn income, and is connected to a support system through the HOLD Human Development Clubs.

We have helped HOLD improve the quality of the data they’re keeping through a partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Allison Sambo’s most recent trip (December 2014) resulted in an Impact Evaluation based on their survey and collected data.  They’re now keeping track of the fourth cohort for 18 months, and this will be ongoing. Because the women understand that this will help improve the program, they’re actively collaborating with HOLD staff. 

Young women can have tremendous influence in their societies, especially if they’re respected. HOLD is working on societal change.  Whose fault is pregnancy?  What impact does it have on the life of the girl, who’s automatically expelled from school? On the child?  These questions have been discussed at numerous meetings HOLD staff and peer educators have been having with educators and community leaders since February last year.  The goal is policy change at the Ministry level.   Last week, a play by peer educators and their own testimony afterward resulted in 20 educators from the city of Goma representing 20 secondary schools and universities agreeing to work together for this change.   This is integrated development that will lead to improved health and well-being for women and their communities.
Thank you for being part of making change possible!!  Let’s see what the new year holds!!

Posted on January 29, 2015 .