Photos from CAR: Changing lives one shop at a time
Meet some of the brave women who, by becoming financially independent, can take care of themselves and their children and create a future, where survivors of gender-based violence, such as themselves, are no longer stigmatized.
Posted on 04 Jul 2023
Gender-based violence is a major issue in the Central African Republic - a landlocked country marred by years of conflict and violence, that has taken a heavy toll on the population and the females.
The statistics tell their own alarming story: Every hour, three people become victims of gender-based violence and at least one of them will be subject to sexual violence. The vast majority of the survivors, 95 percent, are women and girls.
To respond to the crisis, DRC is implementing several programs aimed at answering the overwhelming needs of the survivors of gender-based violence. One of the protection programs puts a specific emphasis on financial independence, resilience and capacity building. Through approaches such as village savings and credit associations, income-generating activities, entrepreneurship training, financial management, business plan development, and mentoring and coaching, the women gain practical life skills that helps them to become financially independent and create a better future for themselves and their loved ones.
Meet some of the brave women here:
“I wouldn’t be able to pay for my girl’s schooling, if I didn’t have my own income.”
For years, Noella was trapped in a violent marriage with a husband who repeatedly beat her, but at the end of last year she escaped together with her two children.
She was offered protection and psycho-social first aid in a DRC-supported safe house, and she received training in how to set up and manage a small shop to make a living for herself and the girls.
Today, she designs, crafts and sells colorful sandals at different markets in Bangui. The modest income allows her to pay for tuition for her two girls so that they can go to school – and get a better future.
“Our home was gone. Everything we ever had was destroyed. There was nothing left.”
When violence broke out in the northeastern city of Paoua, it happened almost overnight. Reine barely managed to flee with her children before armed men arrived.
Her husband, brother, mother, and father didn’t. They all lost their lives in the first days of conflict.
After having spent two years as a refugee in Chad, Reine and her children returned to Paoua only to find out that everything had been destroyed. Her house was gone, and her family was no longer alive. The shock and grief were immense.
Reine sought help at DRC’s listening center in Paoua – a space where women and girls can get psycho-social support and participate in activities that can help them regain hope and independence.
Reine received training in how to run a small business, and today she owns a small, but successful stall at Paoua’s central market, allowing her to rent a small house, to send her children and nephews to school and to ensure that they can have a meal twice a day.
“Owning a shop is hard but rewarding. It’s not always easy, but I am able to support not only myself, but also my two daughters and grandchildren. It makes me feel strong and independent.”
Mama Jeannette has a busy morning schedule: when she gets up, she prepares small cakes and fried fish before setting up a small table at the roadside, where she churns cassava and waits for customers to stop by. But those busy mornings started just six months ago when her violent husband unexpectedly passed away.
For more than thirty years she suffered from domestic violence where beatings and degrading behavior were part of her everyday life. When her husband passed away, Jeannette had to find a way to support her and her children, and she turned to DRC to get support.
For three days, she took part in a business training workshop and with initial cash support from DRC, she was able to open her own roadside shop.
Jeannette's income not only provides for herself, her daughters and grandchildren, but it also allows her to put money aside each week on a small savings account at a neighborhood savings and loans association.
“They kept me hostage for more than a week before I was able to escape.”
When violence broke out in 2013, Aziza - who ran a well-functioning general store in Bangui – had to leave everything behind. Together with her children she fled the city and her own store in Bangui.
During their flight, Aziza was taken by rebels, deprived of her rights and kept hostage at an unknown place. After a week in captivity, she managed to escape.
Upon returning to Bangui with her six children, the youngest being just two years old, she received support and was helped by DRC to re-establish her store and get back on her feet. The small business now helps her provide for her children but cannot be compared to the one she had before the war.
Although she manages to get by, life in Bangui is still hard. Not only for Aziza, but for many women and children in CAR's capital.
DRC in Central African Republic
DRC has been working with displaced people and populations affected by the crisis in CAR since 2007. From 2007 to 2012, DRC implemented a wide variety of activities covering protection, emergency education, rehabilitation, food security, and livelihoods, supporting communities in a long transition from emergency to early recovery. With the outbreak of armed violence in 2012, DRC reoriented its activities towards emergency response, protection, and social cohesion.
Currently, DRC in CAR focuses on protection and emergency response, economic recovery, and social cohesion to address immediate needs and strengthen the protection and resilience capacities of conflict-affected persons, including internally displaced persons, returnees, members of the host community, and other vulnerable persons.
DRC’s resilience programming focus on financial inclusion, and capacity building of individual and group local actors through approaches such as village savings and credit associations, income-generating activities, entrepreneurship training, financial management, business plan development, mentoring or coaching in order to increase practical life skills among targeted individuals.
Central African crisis
A decade after the 2013 military-political crisis that led to the overthrow of the ruling government, the Central African Republic (CAR) has yet to enjoy peace and sustainable development. Nearly three quarters of Central Africans live below the poverty line in a country with abysmal maternal and infant mortality rates and high levels of illiteracy. With mounting tensions and displacement again on the rise, soaring market prices, fuel shortage, floods and violence linked to human trafficking are taking a heavy toll on the daily lives of a population exhausted by repeated armed clashes and human rights violations.