Over the years, an increasing number of conflicts have erupted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, along with the proliferation of armed groups that have destroyed the country’s economic structures (i.e., devastated fields, cattle rustling – most of which are operated by women) and caused the collapse of public infrastructures like schools, hospitals, and health centers.

In Uvira, South Kivu, an association called Femmes Artisanes de la Paix* (FAP) sets out to strengthen women’s economic power by helping them establish village savings and credit associations (VSAs). The project has enabled 250 women to set up 10 VSAs, thanks to the support of Feminists in Action.

Women during a economic empowerment workshop organized by FAP for women's autonomy.
Women during a economic empowerment workshop organized by FAP


The presidents and assistants involved in each of these VSAs took part in training courses on income-generating activities such as business opportunity assessment, marketing and the use of digital technology, and credit management, so that they could train and support more women.

Each member of the VSA contributes to the pot for a given amount, enabling members to borrow higher sums to finance their business ventures.

I have been a farmer for as long as I can remember. I grow corn, rice, and cassava. This activity allows me to provide for my family on a minor level. However, I farm on small plots because owning larger land without proper funding is hard. So, I settle for small harvests against my will. Now, I rent a large plot of land to grow enough crops to meet my family’s needs, such as my children’s education. This was impossible until now because the local economy was too weak” Nanjira Shagayo, head of the Amani VSA.


The role of Femmes Artisanes de la Paix is not limited to setting up VSAs. FAP also works with participants and their communities to organize educational workshops on sexual and reproductive health and rights, also involving young boys and community leaders. The goal is to eliminate the taboo around sexual harassment in schools, menstrual hygiene, and contraceptives. FAP educated nearly 6,000 young people.

I didn’t know much about sexual and reproductive health before the training provided by FAP. I learned a lot of things about my body. For instance, I didn’t know that infections could be transmissible. Today, I can safely say that I know how to prevent infections and where to seek treatment should any complication arise. Thanks to the training, I can now educate young girls and boys on sexual and reproductive health. These girls have become my friends now; they turn to me whenever they have concerns, and we talk like friends,” says Nelly Zaina, an FAP-trained educator.

That being said, access to sexual and reproductive health services (such as STI prevention) and products like menstrual protection and contraceptives continue to pose a significant challenge in the region. To achieve a sustainable impact, local and national authorities must support the efforts of grassroots women’s associations like FAP.


Many reports point to a situation of severe violence against women in the East of the DRC. Indeed, large-scale sexual violence is a massive and systematic weapon of war and community destabilization. Gunmen from regular forces or militia groups are generally the ones inflicting sexual violence, but a “spreading” effect compounds this: people outside armed groups take advantage of widespread impunity to commit these crimes. UN Women estimates that there are more than a million women victims of rape, though it is difficult to produce precise figures. Women are in danger in every corner of these regions, whether working in the fields (women account for 70% of agricultural workers), fetching wood or water, going to the market, or on their way home. It is crucial to support organizations like FAP in their fight against gender-based violence.

Historical background:
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern regions (North and South Kivu), bordering Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda, have been ravaged by intense conflict for 30 years. The UN describes this region as “one of the world’s most complex yet neglected humanitarian crises.” According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, over 6.9 million people are displaced in the DRC, including 5.5 million in the country’s East alone.

*Women Peacemakers Association