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Need: Funding for Widow and Orphan Rights Training in Rural Congo

Haut Plateau Women at Minembwe Conference - 2008

Subject: AVOC Conference Announcement
Conference Date: July 14, 2011

ACOLDEMHA has been asked by AVOC to help promote the annual Widows and Orphans Association Conference in the Haute Plateau region of South Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and it is our pleasure do so.

In brief, AVOC is an association supporting 2,258 widows and 5,341 orphans located in this isolated, historically troubled region of the Province. The Haute Plateau is a very large, very remote area of Congo that has very literally gone without any real, tangible government support or attention, ever. There is very little in the way of access roads, and certainly no other infrastructure. It is an area that has been fraught with years and years of conflict wars, therefore violence and oppression of every kind, HIV/AIDS, poverty, etc. It’s an area where the long years of these oppressive conditions have exacerbated already repressive cultural norms and even normalized horrific behavior against the female gender.

To help you understand the widow’s plight, according to the statistics that AVOC has provided, 70% of the widows have become such as a result of the conflict wars, and 95% of the AVOC widows were enrolled as illiterate. A common situation is a scenario where, due to poverty, 14 year-old girls (having entered puberty) are kidnapped and forcibly married to 19 and 20 year old young men. These young men (husbands) then are engaged in the conflicts and some are killed and so these young wives are made widows and in the culture, they own nothing and become themselves property of their new extended family, bearing and raising children to brothers and fathers and cousins of their deceased husbands. And as challenging as that is to fathom, because of the poverty conditions where dowries are not possible, the uneducated leaders of the churches - most often the only semblance of authority in the locales - have supported these outrageous behaviors.

You can then imagine the trickle-down affect and surmise the life-challenges the orphans live with. Some of the orphans are children of Interhamwe rape victims whose mother's detest or fear the idea of raising up a child of that tribe, compounding tragedy upon tragedy.

Of course there are multiple thousands of rape victims who are suffering from a myriad of heartbreaking consequences; there are all manner of horrific cases being lived out by victims of the many unspeakable atrocities, but there are five recorded rape victims from this year who did not survive the brutality of their circumstances.

The annual AVOC conference is a conference that has taken place unnoticed for the last few years by most of the population and officials of South Kivu Province, let alone the rest of Congo, or the world. But this happens to be a year and a time when the conflicts in the Haute Plateau have ceased. It’s a time of relative peace in the region and therefore a time to explore the possibility of reaching out to peoples, agencies, and governments that might be able to participate in some form or fashion, giving opportunity for those who would like to invest their better fortune into the lives of these whose lives who have been stolen from them, investing their gifts, talents, and influence into lives that have been deemed of no account.

The AVOC conference this year will be attended by 7,000 women and 3,000 men in the remote territory of Minembwe. We will be setting up a solar-powered, battery-energized speaker and microphone system on the hilltop where we will be gathered for four days, July 14th – 17th. We are soliciting your support, first in attendance if possible, then in whatever way you are able. We realize it is short notice at this point in time – we appreciate your sacrifice.

If you are able participate in some fashion, please contact me. I will let you know how best to follow-through based on the form of your interest.

With regard for you,

Neema

Haut Plateau Girls at Minembwe Conference - 2008

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