Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Empowerment is an unweildy thing.
What empowers you?
What is it in your background, your education, your faith, your culture, that empowers you?

Think about really is a difficult question.

Perhaps in order to see yourself clearly you have to stand in someone else's shoes.

I certainly would never have considered myself a particularly "empowered" person.

But the fact is that I am. When someone mistreats me I am surprised. And indignant. When I face a new task, something I've never done before, I generally give it a try. Yeah, I might screw it up, but I might succeed. Who knows? When I talk to someone, I assume they will listen. Maybe not agree, but listen at least. I assume I can go somewhere new, do something else, or try again on something I've failed before.

But what if you never learned to do those things? In Congo, handicapped women are pretty much on the bottom of the totem pole. They are never seen as adults, because to be an adult woman means to be married and bear children. And handicapped women are unlikely to have the opportunity to marry. But to be a child forever?

So when I see the ladies that I work with, as they struggle for independence, I see the many ways that my life has empowered me. And I wonder what it is like to be treated badly, and not stand up and shout. To not expect more. Of the world...or myself.

And so the SHONA ladies and I, struggle towards the goal of empowerment. And I wish I had some magic formula. I wish empowerment could be handed around on a silver platter. But it is hard work, as it is supposed to be. And they tackle it with both hands. Last month we started an adult education program. The SHONA ladies are currently taking math, French, and a course in "Faith and Action" (studying the lives of people around the world who have demonstrated faith through their actions). As a teacher I don't think I've ever seen more motivated students, and I guess that is the point. That is where empowerment begins.


Anonymous said...

God bless you, I keep this blog as my favorite and read every entry of yours. I love what you are doing. Thank you so much for what you're doing for these forgotten Congolese women. Thank you kindly.

shona congo said...

And thank you for the encouragement! I am here, where it is hard to forget the struggles of people that I see everyday.

But I continue to be humbled by the concern and kindness of people like yourself. You have gone out of your way to learn about the struggles of people who are so far away, and care about people you will never meet. As long as people like you continue to care, the women of Congo will not be forgotten!

Thank you for following my blog and thank you for letting me know. It means so much to know that people are out there reading this blog!

Anonymous said...

oh yes we are here reading!
Thank you so much for all of your work, and letting us glimpse what you are doing though this blog.
My thoughts are on the people of the congo, especially the women and children, and even more especially those you work with who are 'at the bottom of the totem pole'.
I hope the politics will get out of the way now and let the development of Congo and its people proceed after so much decay and neglect.
Thank you.
PS, for others interested, has daily blog updates from the rangers and staff of virunga national park in the eastern DRC. They are there to protect the environment and mountain gorillas, but realize that this can not happen without empowering the local populace and providing for their development.