She channels her pain into healing others
I met Annie Nabintu when I worked for an organization in Goma, a town in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I was very impressed by her focus on taking care of women and girl survivors of sexual violence. Her courage and determination has given me so much courage.
Annie is a Congolese woman who lives in Goma in North Kivu, a province characterized by repeated wars in eastern DRC. She is 42 years old, married with four children.
In 2000, Annie launched a non-profit organization called Action social pour la promotion des laissés pour compte (ASPLC) to promote poor women and children in eastern DRC. The target of this NGO is to assist women affected by armed conflict that characterize her country. "I created this organization to assist women survivors of armed conflicts and atrocities perpetrated by armed rebel groups in North Kivu"., revealed Annie.
Medium-sized and very strong, Annie is a native of South Kivu near Goma. Different from other women and girls who are friends with their mothers, Annie is a friend to her father. "I spent a lot of time at the school in Bukavu because I went to study, away from my parents. I did not stay long next to my mom”, explains Annie . She is the daughter of a pastor who took care of vulnerable women and children, for many years. Annie thinks she has inherited her father's work. "My father has helped women and children in the church, for many years. I think it was from him that I became all that I am today," she says.
For Annie, women and children are the first to be affected by the war between armed groups present in the east of the DRC and armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo ( FARDC) Congolese army. She thinks that customs and traditions – like early marriages , denying the woman to work without prior permission from her husband, lack of an inheritance etc. prevent women from enjoying their rights. Annie opines, "We must not stand by idly and do nothing. We must help women and children live their lives.".
Through her organization, Annie assists women who lost their husbands during the war and conflict in the DRC. She also supports women and girls surviving sexual violence, armed conflict and repeated wars perpetrated by armed men, and rebels in eastern Congo. "We try to do the best to help and support the women psychologically," admits Annie. She is very confident about the impact of her work in the field.
A successful survivor
Despite the African customs and traditions that do not allow many women to have the chance to study, Annie graduated from the Université ouverte in Goma, majoring in Management and Business Administration.
A survivor of repeated sexual harassment by officials of some national and international organizations where she sought employment, Annie was shocked that this form of sexual violence occurs silently in the DRC. This situation also pushed her to create her own organization. Through ASPLC, Annie employed other women like her who faced sexual harassment in the DRC. "When I finished my studies, I needed to work, but the heads of organizations that I approached wanted to hire me to become their friend or their wife. I refused because I thought it was unfair. I do not deserve a job because of my gender but my abilities ", reflects Annie Nabintu. Nevertheless, Annie admits that she made a difficult decision in this time of crisis in the DRC where finding a job was not easy. "I did it for myself and to gain respect as a woman. We are capable and men should not always think that women use only sex in seeking opportunities. ", Annie stated convincingly.
Since the birth of her NGO, Annie has assisted women affected by armed conflict perpetrated by various rebel groups which destabilized eastern DRC. Among these groups are the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the National Congress for the Defense people (CNDP), headed by Laurent Nkunda and Bosco Ntaganda, Mai Mai, Raiya Mutomboko, Nyantura and recently the rebel Movement March 23 ( M23).
The work carried out by Annie through her organization helps women by training them to make mats, baskets, soap, juice and many other items to enable women to remain independent. At present, ASPLC employs about 100 Congolese women who also work in the service of other women in the affected Congolese community. In particular, they provide psychosocial support for women survivors of sexual violence and women affected by HIV and AIDS. "Since I came here, I was informed of various trades, including cutting and sewing. I feel I am now able to do something to take care of myself and my child", mentions Jeanine. She is one of the survivors of sexual violence from the territory of Masisi about 75 kilometers from Goma. This territory is affected by inter-ethnic conflicts in North Kivu. Jeanine went to the centre in Goma which houses several girl survivors of armed conflict after being raped and made pregnant by armed men. "I sincerely thank ASPLC for the assistance it has provided me. I can stay here. The staff also agreed to take care of my daughter. May God continue to bless them ", Jeannie recalls her sad story with emotion, and tears in her eyes
Extremely satisfied with the work she has done since 2000, Annie still feels shocked by repeated wars and armed conflicts that characterize the DRC particularly in the eastern and Northern Kivu regions. Every day, these wars continue to pour into the streets, affecting thousands of families and people, most of whom are women and children, "It is vital for women around the globe to come together and advocate for restoring peace in the DRC" , Annie concludes.