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A DIFFERENT FUTURE IS POSSIBLE IN CONGO

Getting my education was a challenge. My father died just before I was born. My mom was illiterate, jobless – a destitute widow with six mouths to feed besides her own. But miraculously, some people agreed to pay for my studies at a boarding school. It was difficult sometimes because I was only able to see my family during the holidays, but so worth it.

I was so fortunate because in our culture, a girl is not really a member of their family, in the “living” sense. She is property of her father’s family. Girls are like dogs who are only kept around for the service they can perform. Dogs do security for the home. Girls haul water in Gerry cans on their backs, usually several kilometers and several times a day, to and from the water supply. When mom must go to the field to work the plantation, the girls are expected to take care of the children and the entire house, making sure dinner is prepared when father and mother return home in the evening. Girls cook and clean, sew, work the plantation with their mother, and care for the needs of the men – run and get this for me, do that, go there. If a girl is in school she has great difficulty finding time for homework, and she better not complain or she will be pulled from school. If she fails it is not important; her education is not necessary anyway.

When a girl reaches puberty, the father makes a decision when and to whom he will give his daughter in marriage. Daughters mean cows for the family. The husband-to-be’s family gives cows as a dowry to the father of the bride. That is the biggest sum of a girl’s value to the home. A father can look at his daughters and count the cows he will have one day. And for those who do have a chance to go to school, as they advance through the levels and see other girls their age getting married and having the glory of their husband, culture pressures them to quit school and also get married so they are not seen as rebellious and unfit to be a bride. All of this contributes to the illiteracy and continued slavery of girls who don’t know they are slaves because of ignorance.

I have considered the great damage that our society has done to itself by keeping the women ignorant and illiterate, who whether acknowledged or not, contribute at least half of the upbringing to the children in the home. Every son loves his mother so much, and yet is taught to think of her as less than himself. It is obvious that this is so unhealthy. Their thinking is established in twisted ways from the beginning. They will experience love like they will never know it again in their lives, from their mother. They can hear quiet wisdom like they will never hear from another through the course of their lives. They can witness devotion, integrity, and resilience in the face of extreme hardship, all lived out unceremoniously and in such a manner as they will probably never witness so intimately throughout the rest of their lives. Their mother and her gender are viewed as property for the purpose of bearing children and doing menial work. But how can a son reconcile the fact that he came out of his mom? She cared for him and taught him things he can’t learn at school. It is no wonder that as Congo has set aside its women, it has set aside love for one another, peace, integrity, happiness, and a tomorrow full of hope realized.

It is my intention to contribute to a great turnaround in our society. I believe that we need to include all generations in programs that bring awareness, and opportunity to invest themselves in a new and bright future for Congo. Awareness is first, then offering support for changing each life, delivered according to their education, interests, and generation. But each person, women and men, must be made aware. Ignorance has governed for so long. Many know things are not right in their hearts, so just a little confirmation will liberate them. For others it will take time, and that is okay. The point is, a different future is possible for us, for each one of us, for all of us. Congo can come into a new destiny as this future is born in each individual. And I don’t think it will happen slowly, but very quickly. Everyone is drawn to the light of a new day – it’s just natural.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring girls greater access to education which will transform their lives, their families, and communities. The Girls Transform Campaign elicits insightful content from young women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as women, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Comments

jacollura's picture

Beautiful piece

Thank you for writing. I, too, believe we can change the world. Individual acts create global change.
In love and peace,
Julie

Estherkitenge's picture

Thank. Everything is possible

Thank. Everything is possible for a willing heart.

Dana W's picture

Hi Thank you very much for a

Hi
Thank you very much for a fascinating text. You mentioned the barriers your mother had, which seem to be quite difficult, so now I’m curious how you end up in boarding school? Thank you very much for an important text and a voice it’s exciting to hear!
Dana

Estherkitenge's picture

Hi Thank you for the interest

Hi
Thank you for the interest you have shown to know some details.
My mother was able to find a sponsor for me who paid my studies. And sold on the market to be able to give me some pocket money and provide for other needs of her home.
Regard

Sharontina's picture

Truthful

That was a beautiful writing to bring out only the true situation of the country. The truthfulness shows your concern for the change you believe in , the change you want and desire for. I too believe with you if the future is born in each individual we can reach our destiny. Thank you for that voice.

Merlin Sharontina

Estherkitenge's picture

Thank you, I really

Thank you, I really appreciated your point of view. Really, there is something so deep in your sentences. I like.

Tash's picture

''Girls are like dogs and

''Girls are like dogs and they can only be kept around for the service they perform'', wow, that is indeed the raw truth in most rural communities in Africa. perspectives need to change.

Kind Regards,
Patsy.

Estherkitenge's picture

yes i agree with you,

yes i agree with you, perspectives have to change and we are one of peoples who need to take initiatives to change mentalities in our respective countries.
thank you!

Gloriabit's picture

very true

yes, you said it all

Estherkitenge's picture

thank you!

thank you!

Carmen's picture

Esther, I love how you point

Esther,
I love how you point out the confusion for a son who receives the greatest love and wisdom from his Mother with the treatment of Mother/Woman as nothing more than slaves. This was written so clearly and beautifully. I am sharing your piece on my Facebook page.

And I coming to Congo in June with Neema! I hope so much to meet you Sister!

Big Love to You,
Carmen

Carmen

Estherkitenge's picture

Thank you for sharing on

Thank you for sharing on Facebook. That gives me again courage to see that in writing we can help and touch the hearts of others. It would be a pleasure to meet you too. I hope that I will be in Congo because at the moment I'm in training in Mauritius.

Therese kasindi's picture

So interesting your post my

So interesting your post my sister Ester! Our wish is to see the change in DRCongo.
God Bless you!

THERESE( Maman Shujaa, Drc)

Estherkitenge's picture

Thank you. God bless you too

Thank you. God bless you too my sister

zoneziwoh's picture

An Ironical Paradox

Siz, thanks for raising our concern to this. I have always wonder why intoxicate the minds of the innocent child..make him grow with hatred and confusion. This little boys, when they are young, they adore their mum, they cant sleep untill they see their mum return home. I remembered how my younger brother would to cry just because he couldnt see his mum home and it was getting late. I could feel his pain and understand his grieve but now he is grown up and has been taught the language of authority, patriachy. Isnt that placing an innocent mind in total confusion...?

Stay Blessed

Zoneziwoh

Blog: http://zofem.blogspot.com/

facebook: Zoneziwoh

twitter: @ZoFem

Estherkitenge's picture

Yes, you're right. But women

Yes, you're right. But women have a share of responsibility in all this because we bear the burden To educate our children, teach them moral values. In the world today, the value is given to finance, money more than life, more than our fellow creature ... And it destroys us. The future is in the hands of women.
Be blessed

milliej7's picture

Thanks for your piece Esther.

I felt very moved by your writing. You describe such difficult conditions for Congolese women but also manage to send a message of hope.

I was particularly taken by the way you question a son's relationship with his mother and how he is taught to see her as less than him. I agree that this is unhealthy. It really is a case of raising awareness of the situation through education. What sort of programs for Congolese citizens at present? Are you involved in any of them?

I love your intention to be part of a great turnaround in Congolese society. I wish you the very best of luck.

Walaa Salah's picture

a moving peice of writing

Dear Estherkitenge
thank you very much for the well written post, it hits me reading your part about "women = cows" in Congo this specific part made me think more of how issues are similar in Africa, as the struggle of women in South Sudan with this specific issue is ongoing. please have a look at SIHA Network's research paper: "Falling Through the Cracks", the paper discuss the issue of traditional legal system on women\human rights in South Sudan where the Cows are in the center.
http://sihanet.org/index.php/sihas-published-work/reportspublications/fi...

Keep writing, keep us inspired!

be the change

Walaa Salah

Precious M's picture

Very positive note

You have rightly put it. Even though women are treated as cows, a different future is possible. I love the positivity in your post.

Best regards,
Precious

My pen speaks

kati.mayfield's picture

Value

Dear Esther,
This is a beautiful piece. Like a few others who have commented, I have read and re-read your sentence "A father can look at his daughters and count the cows he will have one day."
And it got me thinking ...
You also indicate that women are valued for the services they provide. Though it is wrong, it seems very practical. If a father only knows to measure the value of his daughters in cows, then he will consider them in that way. If a son only knows to measure the value of his mother for the care she gives him, then he will consider her in this way. So how does a society teach its members - both the men, and the women themselves - that the primary value of a woman (and of any human being) stems from within and not from what she can give to us or provide for us.
Thank you for making me think!
-Kati

*resolved this year to think twice and to smile twice before doing anything*

Katalina's picture

Your story

Thanks for your story, so touching, I was born and grew up in Congo, Kamalia near Bukuva and the Rawanda border and then Dungu and Niangara near the Sudan and Ugunda border. My heart is still in Congo. Where do you grow up?
Katalina (what they called me in Congo)

irmia's picture

Thanks for sharing your story

In some areas in my country, this is also the problem: daughters equal to pig. Thanks for bringing up the story :)

Mia

Florence's picture

thank you

I think its a general problem in most African countries. Good thing is reality is violating the taboo! Today we have African women leaders in many areas; in the persons of the President of Liberia, so lets work hard to educate and encourage our daughters we who attained some education, or are on the ladder of education.
thanks for that piece! Esther

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