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Women handing over money in self-help group

She's got the power

By Ben Cohen | 06 Nov 2019

When you empower a woman to escape poverty, something special happens. It's different. For Masika from the DRC, everything changed.

When you empower a man to escape poverty it’s a wonderful thing, says Hebdavi Muhindo Tearfund’s Programme Director for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). However, empowering a woman is twice as wonderful. Hebdavi explains why...

As I sat in the meeting, I could tell there was something special about Masika*.

The meeting was being held in her village in the middle of rural DRC. The men and women here had lived in terrible poverty for many years. However, for some of them, their fortunes changed after a number of them formed a self-help group. 

The women (and a few men) had pooled their very modest resources together, and issued members with small loans. With this money, they were able to grow more and better food, and to start new businesses.

The self-help group meeting was buzzing when I visited them. People were talking excitedly about how their lives were changing.

A tale to tell
Masika didn’t actually say that much at the meeting. However, when she did speak, you could see her passion and commitment. I could sense that here was a woman with a story to tell and I was keen to hear it.

After the meeting we visited a nearby farm where the group were learning how to make compost and grow more food. I took the opportunity to introduce myself to her.
 
‘I am excited to meet your group,’ I told her. ‘I think it’s very good what you are doing together.’

Women from self-help group meet outdoors

Masika's self-help group meeting together.

'[Self-help groups are] God's answer to my prayers in a way I could never have imagined.'
Masika

With that single sentence, Masika started talking. It was like I had plugged her into the mains.
 
‘It’s not just a good thing, it’s a life-changing miracle,’ she told me. ‘It’s God's answer to my prayers in a way I could never have imagined. It’s a story I will tell my children and to their children as long as I live…’

However, this wasn’t just a story about growing more food, or making more money…
 
‘A radio without batteries’
Masika was a housewife with four children. Her husband had been the sole breadwinner. It was a joyless marriage and he had shown her no respect, beating her and abusing her verbally.
 
‘My husband told me I was useless without him; just like a radio without batteries,’ she recalls.
 
He would never consult her for any decisions about their household. ‘He even told me that my parents wasted their money sending me to school,’ she said, although she was denied more than a basic education as a girl.  

When Masika joined the self-help group, everything changed. With her loan she started selling tomatoes and then small doughnut-like cakes known as mandazi.

Suddenly she was making money and could contribute to household expenses. As that happened, her husband’s attitude changed. ‘Now my opinion counts in the house,’ she says. The abuse and the violence have stopped too.

'When you support a woman, it gives them economic power for the first time. And that changes the whole way their family operates.'
Masika

Double the difference 
Working for Tearfund in the DRC I love helping to empower people to escape poverty, as we work in partnership with local churches. However, there’s something doubly special when a woman is empowered. 

When you support a woman, it gives them economic power for the first time. And that changes the whole way their family operates.

And a woman's income often contributes more to the welfare of the family in rural DRC. While men may have different priorities, a woman generally puts her children and household first.

Not only has the abuse stopped for Masika, it’s ceasing for other women in her village. She’s teaching and counselling other survivors of gender-based violence in her village – a serious problem in the DRC – and helping them to speak out about it.
 
Power corrupts; but for so many women around the world, being empowered does the exact opposite.

 
PLEASE PRAY

Thank you dear God, that you made men and women equal, both bearing your image. And thank you for every woman and man that understands their true worth as a child of yours. 

Help your church across the world to empower millions more women like Masika. Let them discover their abilities and their true worth. And empower them to transform their families and communities.
Amen.

Written by

Written by Ben Cohen

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