Meet Elisa. She’s a wife, a mother of seven and a woman with a purpose.

Uprooted from her home in Walikale territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Elisa and her family have lived a life of hardship.

North Kivu, the province where Walikale is located, ranks highest in human rights abuses in the country. More than 40 per cent of all violations recorded in the DRC take place here, including countless cases of sexual and gender-based violence.

Caught in the violence of her country, it took many years and multiple displacements for Elisa to finally find a place to settle. The 49-year-old describes her life at that time, saying “You suffer when you flee, leaving everything behind. We arrived empty-handed in a place where there was nothing.”

Before finding safety in the town of Kitchanga in the eastern part of the DRC, Elisa used to collect firewood to help bring in an income for her family. But this put her at great risk of sexual violence. “It was a life of violence. We were raped regularly,” she says.

Thanks to your support, Elisa has finally found stability as an employee at a small factory set up by UNHCR called Tuungane Pamoja (Swahili for “working together”) where she’s one of 58 displaced Congolese employed by the company.

Elisa used to collect firewood to help support her family, but this put her at great risk of sexual violence. © UNHCR / B. Sokol

UNHCR leads the protection for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence. After providing immediate medical assistance, livelihood projects help women feel supported as they rebuild their lives.

Elisa now works alongside other local members of the community to manufacture hygiene kits, made up of an innovative reusable menstrual pad, and soap.

Working and being a part of the community that Tuungane Pamoja is creating has helped her to acquire skills that have become invaluable to Elisa.

She says “Learning to make soap has given me hope because it will give us an income and we can become self-reliant.

With your help, Elisa and other displaced women can now gain regular employment in a safer way. 

When speaking about the little factory where she works, her face lights up and it’s easy to see that she loves her job. Elisa hasn’t given up hope for the future and knows that her new-found skills will help her in the long-run.

“I have these skills forever and if the war ends and I go home, I can continue making soap.”

You can help even more women become self-reliant
and support themselves and their families.
Find out more

Thanks to you, Elisa now works at a UNHCR-supported factory which manufactures hygiene kits and soap. © UNHCR / N. Micevic

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