In DRC we help improve the livelihoods of women small-scale traders working across the borders with Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.
In 2013 we trained 977 women traders on their legal rights and obligations, and 171 border agents on taxes, human rights and gender. We also helped to create 27 new traders’ cooperatives and associations, produced leaflets on the border crossing process and aired over 20 radio programmes on cross-border trade.
The importance of our work
Poor governance and war have had a devastating effect on the local economy in DRC, so finding the basic necessities to provide for a family is a daily struggle. Tens of thousands of small-scale traders rely on the border as a primary means for survival. Since 2009, we have been working to build trust across borders and empower women traders.
We help traders to become more confident in demanding that their rights be respected. Today, there is an improved climate of trust at the border. Traders at the four borders where we work have reported a reduction of up to 60% in the number of harassment cases.
“Personally, a lot has changed for me because of this project. I understand my work much better. Now if I’m crossing the border, I know where to start and finish and what fees I need to pay to which person, so it all gets done quickly and, most importantly, in an atmosphere of respect between us and the border officials…”
Hopes for the future
From Goma to Gisenyi, Bukavu to Cyangugu, the common wish of Rwandan and Congolese cross-border traders is that, one day, there will be security and good collaboration between countries in the region, and that their trade will be able to lift them and their families out of their poverty.
“There is real reciprocity between us. The Rwandan traders need us like we need them. When you have been clients for a long time, you become sisters. Over there in Rwanda, they say ‘Turikumwe’ – we are one.”
– Maman Bahati (pictured)