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Women of the Congo: Bringing Hope through Microfinance

By Emily Riemer

“It is a war that men have provoked, but women have paid the highest price.” These are the words of a UN peacekeeper in Lisa Jackson’s award-winning documentary, The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo, a film about the violence and violation faced by women living in the war-torn eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo over the last decade.

On Monday night, nearly 100 guests attended a screening of the documentary film, followed by a question-and-answer session with three members of Opportunity International’s leadership team. Congolese-born member of the Board of Directors, Kadita “A.T.” Tshibaka; CEO Bill Morgenstern; and the CEO of the Global Leadership Team, Ken Vander Weele engaged in a discussion about the film, the current situation in the DR Congo, and how Opportunity’s entry into the DR Congo will bring hope to many in this country.

Throughout the developing world, Opportunity’s mission is to bring more economic resources to countries with the understanding that greater economic stability helps to build thriving communities, leading to greater political and societal stability. As part of the Banking on Africa campaign, Opportunity pledges to bring life-changing financial services to five million impoverished people in sub-Saharan Africa by 2015, expanding to rural areas, where most economically marginalized people live.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, fewer than 1% of the population has access to a formal financial institution. Ken Vander Weele is hopeful about Opportunity’s work there. “We recognize that expanding our reach in the DR Congo is one of our greatest challenges, but it is also a country with one of the greatest needs.” Ruth-Anne Renaud, Opportunity’s VP of Women’s Philanthropy, asserts that Lisa Jackson’s powerful film educates and highlights the need to empower all women. “I have seen firsthand that the work we do brings hope to women and families in every country where we have a presence,” she reflects. “Through greater access to financial tools, Opportunity helps women to ensure a more stable economic future for themselves, their families and their communities. The Trust Group model, for instance, offers a forum in which to draw strength from others and to be a part of a community, along with greater economic independence that can help women sustain a sense of self-worth. I have faith that the working solution to global poverty that Opportunity provides can reach the most marginalized individuals.”

Already, Opportunity has raised $100 million for the Banking on Africa campaign, and we continue to work toward the day when all Africans can safely deposit their savings, access capital to grow their businesses, and purchase affordable insurance to protect their assets. With our expansion and offerings of microloans and savings accounts in the DR Congo, as part of our Banking on Africa initiative, we will reach a sizable population of Congolese women.

Said a doctor in the film: “A woman is the mother of a nation.” With this in mind, Opportunity offers the tools to strengthen both the women in the Democratic Republic of Congo and, in turn, the nation as a whole.

Read more about the Banking on Africa campaign in the most recent Impact Newsletter.

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