COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTRES - DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
In the DRC, lack of literacy and access to education both cause and exacerbate women’s poverty and maintain gender-based barriers, and these barriers are far worse in rural than in urban areas.
In rural areas of the DRC, a number of barriers to gender equality exist and have been well documented: domestic tasks that fall primarily on girls, early marriage and age of first pregnancy, unsafe and overcrowded schools, as well as poor and ill-suited learning content. According to UNESCO (2016), significant gaps exist in basic literacy: for those aged 15 years and older, female literacy is 66.5% compared to male literacy of 88.52%. According to the MICS survey for 2017-2018, the literacy gap between rural and urban women in the DRC is even more astounding: while 81% of urban women are literate, only 40% of rural women in the DRC are considered so, many never having attended any formal education.
The building of a new Community Learning Centre in Kinshasa follows on from two already completed Centres supported by the Buchan Family Foundation, the Blond Trust, Susila Dharma Britain and SDIA - one at Kingantoko and the other at Nkandu. These buildings are very close to the Community Health Centres, which allow the women and girls who will soon be learning there to also take advantage of the health care services for them and their children. Indeed, this project has emerged from their needs and requests for such a project. The project addresses the lack of services, programming and support to poor and rural women in the DRC to understand their rights and develop their human potential.
The project is innovative in multiple ways: While it is comparatively easy to reach women and girls in larger urban areas of the DRC, this project provides learning and health services to women and girls who are hardest to reach and most under-served - those in the rural and semi-rural periphery where poor roads, limited access to running water and electricity make service provision more difficult. It is also an innovation to provide centres where women/girls can access multiple services at once: reproductive health, education, skills training and business support and where local authorities can play a meaningful role while themselves being sensitised and trained on gender equality principles and practices at the local level.
The Learning/Health Centres operate as one-stop community-based service hubs, with the Health Centres providing health and reproductive health services, and the Learning Centres helping to address gaps in access to education, training and financial services, based on local and Regional market realities, skill sets and opportunities. They do this by providing personalised skills training and entrepreneurship support to women and girls through on-line and in person training, providing support with literacy and basic education, training in agriculture and livestock management, beekeeping and honey production, food production and processing, animal husbandry, soap making, sewing and a range of other skills. They also offer access to mentoring and support to enable them to start their own businesses, including access to a microfinance fund supported by existing women’s savings groups. This project challenges the types of skills that are traditionally thought of as being 'women's work', offering new opportunities to develop viable self-employment and income generation that are linked to real market opportunities.
In 2022, SD Britain was pleased to be able to contribute towards the construction costs of the most recent Learning Centre in Kinshasa.