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Vocational Training in the DRC – from Jon Thiele, Economic Development Specialist

My task here is to help the DRC Chapter build a program that will help the women earn a living. To do this, it is very important that I learn about the women and the facts of their daily life. These conversations are simultaneously encouraging and painful.

The women are so positive, so pleased with the improvements they’ve made in their lives. I ask what sort of improvement? “Now my kids eat twice a day instead of just once.”

The average income of a woman in our program is probably about sixty cents a day. Almost always this is earned in a “reselling business”– they buy charcoal or something in bulk somewhere and resell it in smaller quantities somewhere else. A day of this and she brings home sixty cents.

We’re trying to improve things. The WFW-DRC provides vocational training– practical classes in which the women learn job skills which they can use to earn a better income. The women in this picture are learning various tie-dying techniques, because colorful fabrics are in high demand here for women’s clothing.

We have classes in tailoring as well, and our program makes an effort to organize the women into groups that can work together to profitably fill a market need– this group of tie-dyers and that group of tailors open a small dressmaking business, that sort of thing.

It’s difficult. They have no business knowledge to speak of. We offer classes in basic business topics like selling and simple bookkeeping, but, as I mentioned earlier, most cannot read or write. A few do not even know numbers; they “count” money by looking at the color of the bills. We work very closing with the women for a year, and we are exploring graduate services, but there is so much to do, so much they need.


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