Homeless, with no savings and six desperate mouths to feed!
I am originally from the highlands of Mulenge in South Kivu Province, DR Congo. A few months before my birth, my father fell sick and two weeks before I came into the world, he died. My mother fainted upon hearing the news and was admitted to the hospital, where I was soon born. I was the youngest in a family of six children, with three brothers and two sisters. In the hospital my mother was consoled by my birth, but when released was informed that my father's employer had taken back our home. Born in a very remote area of East Congo, culture prevented my mother from being given the privilege of an education. Now homeless, with no savings and six desperate mouths to feed, we found shelter at night in a construction site. But even from there we were chased, not by the owner, but by the pressure of family who wanted my mom to submit the cultural stigma of widowhood, and move in with my father’s family and become in essence, the family’s slave. Culturally speaking, widows have no rights and are forced to be dependents of the deceased husband’s family, to continue having children in the family name from her husband’s brothers and other relatives, and to care for their households. But though uneducated, my mother was intelligent, and put all of her hopes in creating a better future for us than what culture would demand.
We moved from construction site to construction site, never staying in one place too long, until my mother was able to sell some cows and buy a small piece of land in Bukavu. The members of the local church helped us to build a small house. My mother started a small business which kept us fed and clothed. But in 1994, the genocidaires from Rwanda fled into Congo to avoid capture, and now because we are Congolese Tutsi, we became their prey. We lived in constant terror. In October 1995, mom decided to sell our house to a friend of my father and flee to Rwanda. Soon we were receiving news of our relatives who were massacred in Congo.
My mother found a home for us and a job in an orphanage. From that job and the proceeds from the sale of our house in Congo, my mother was eventually able to build us a home. In 1996, I joined Compassion International and they paid my school fees. I finished high school in 2007 and was selected for Compassion International’s Leadership Development Program in 2008. In 2012, I graduated from university with a finance degree, and married a beautiful, loving man.
This is my story so far, but you can see its chapters will be built upon the foundation my mother laid for me. I have learned to see things clearly, through her eyes. My mother’s determination to be free and make us free, has made me a freedom fighter.And with Maman Shujaa, fight for Congo I will, in love.