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This online exhibition features images from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), highlighting how Concern’s Graduation Programme sustainably lifts families out of extreme poverty.
‘Graduation’ refers to the movement of individuals or households out of extreme poverty and into food security and sustainable livelihoods. This model is an innovative approach to addressing extreme poverty and rebuilding and transforming lives, livelihoods and communities. By targeting and working with extremely poor families and delivering an extensive package of livelihoods support - including technical and business skills training, coaching, mentoring and financial support - the programme aims to help people sustainably lift themselves out of extreme poverty.
Poverty in the DRC is exacerbated by people’s vulnerability to waterborne diseases and health shocks – 7.9 million people in DRC are in need of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)support. In these regions, the Graduation Programme also works with communities to improve their access to safe water and sanitation facilities, and to promote good hygiene practices to reduce illness from waterborne diseases. Furthermore, we work with community leaders to address issues of gender inequality that discriminate against women and girls.
Eric and his wife, Mado, were forced to flee their home during conflict in 2016 with only a small amount of money and a handful of possessions. They have struggled ever since. Eric and Mado resorted to working as labourers on other people’s land, slowly saving enough money to buy a small plot of land to provide for their family. However, in September 2020, disaster struck again when elephants destroyed over half their crops.
Coping with this loss of food and income has been a huge source of stress for the family. Eric was forced to sell some of his farming tools, and when his child fell sick he had to sell a solar panel to pay the hospital fees.
Eric has since been selected to take part in Concern’s Graduation Programme. He hopes that this will give him the ability to start a small business, which will allow him to earn money, improve the food that his family eats, buy clothing, and send their children to school.
Two of the Graduation Programme’s six components are training in technical and business skills, and coaching and mentoring. Technical and business training aims to enhance people’s skills and facilitate the development of individual business plans aimed at diversifying livelihoods and income generation. Coaches and mentors support participants to meet their goals, encourage certain behavioural changes and offer guidance on addressing specific problems they face.
The coaching and mentoring element is particularly important for addressing issues of gender inequality that continue to lead to discrimination against women and girls across the DRC. Many women we support have had fewer opportunities to obtain the same education or work experience as men.
Before Concern’s project, I didn’t start these businesses because I just didn’t have enough money. The money has changed my life. It’s meant I can afford clothing, medicine, it’s helped with my children’s education and it’s helped us improve our nutrition.
Adrenise’s family have had a better quality of life since she began participating in the Graduation Programme. Adrenise attended training sessions on entrepreneurship and income generation, which gave her a number of business ideas. Using a mixture of cash transfers and loans that she received through the programme, she invested in businesses such as goat rearing and trading oil, maize and cassava. She is using the extra income to build a new house, send her daughter to university and buy healthy and nutritious food for her family. Here, Adrenise is pictured preparing a balanced meal of tomatoes and fish.
Community gardens are a significant part of our Graduation Programme in DRC, providing the means for communities to access nutritious food. Here, Irene waters rows of aubergine plants.
The Graduation Programme encompasses training and cash transfers to allow communities to create businesses, and start earning an income. The programme also focuses on tackling food insecurity in the region by including agricultural training, distributing seeds and providing tools to enable the sustainable production of nutritious vegetables.
Village Saving and Lending Associations (VSLAs) provide critical savings support and encourage the community to work together to provide a safe place for families to save and borrow money. Typically, the self-managed groups meet weekly to save their money in a safe place, access small loans and contribute to a solidarity pot, which can be accessed in times of emergency.
Access to saving and loan facilities enables families to be better prepared for potential disruptions to their livelihood and income, such as illness and poor harvests.
7.9 million people in DRC need Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) support. Therefore, an additional component of the Graduation Programme is investing to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities across the country.
Improving people’s access to safe drinking water, providing adequate sanitation facilities and promoting behaviour change for positive hygiene practices can reduce their vulnerability to waterborne disease.
Our gender equality programmes and workshops aim to change attitudes from the bottom up, teaching both men and women the value of respect and shared work to create a safer, more equal place for women in the country. As George told us, “Everything I did before the training was about me making firm decisions. I rejected all of Natalie’s proposals as she is a woman.”
In the past, women were frequently left out of the decision-making process in the household, bearing large burdens of physical work with no financial independence. “I had to dig cassava on my own,” says Natalie. However, after the training, George is now committed to taking an active and equal role in the household.
George attended gender equality training as part of our Graduation Programme in the region. DRC is a patriarchal society in which male leadership is traditional and expected. The country can be a difficult place for women to live; during past conflicts, there has been widespread sexual assault, and sexual gender-based violence is common throughout both urban and rural society.
I work in the fields, I dig the cassava too, I cut firewood and prepare cassava leaves for food, I draw water in the house and get the fire going in the kitchen…I now consider my wife to be my equal.
Around the world, people living in extreme poverty not only lack the basic means to live day-to-day, but also the resources to escape poverty in the long-term. Often, their children have no access to education, healthcare or the opportunities to build a better future, which creates a self-perpetuating cycle, trapping generation.
Thank you for helping to transform lives, livelihoods and communities.
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