What is the Banro Foundation Doing for Women?
The plight of women in the eastern DRC is a serious issue known around the world, with the situation being especially tragic for poor women in rural areas. Often denied access to education and other opportunities, women in the eastern DRC are also vulnerable to sexual violence.
Banro Corporation and the Foundation are often asked what we are doing to assist women. Given the extent of the problem, any response seems little more than symbolic. Nonetheless, there are several programs dedicated to supporting women. Here are four examples:
1. In constructing 11 new schools and rehabilitating two schools, the Banro Foundation is also addressing the challenge of low enrolment levels for girls. Parents must pay teachers’ salaries and often cannot afford to pay for daughters. Other obstacles to female attendance include a lack of proper school latrines and the role of girls in performing household chores such as fetching water. In tackling this challenge, the Banro Foundation in 2012 introduced a “teacher tuition” program which pays a basic salary to teachers employed in schools built by the Foundation. We also build proper latrines at each new school and invest in potable water projects, which help relieve girls from household chores, thus freeing up time to attend school.
2. In the remote town of Lugushwa, at the request of local women, the Foundation in 2011 built a women’s resource centre, which today offers courses in basic literacy, sewing, bread making, soap-making and hair dressing. The women run the centre and those with skills do the teaching. Well over 130 women have graduated from course so far. We believe this centre could serve as a model for other such centres across the DRC.
3. In 2012, the Banro Foundation built the new $121,000 multi-purpose women’s health unit at the world-renowned Panzi General Referral Hospital in Bukavu. The Panzi Hospital treats an average of 3,500 women each year, free of charge. The multi-purpose women’s centre supports prenatal consultation, family planning and HIV sensitization, child health and other activities related to women’s health. It was built using funds raised through a charity golf tournament held near Toronto in 2011.
4. Community initiatives undertaken by Banro’s Twangiza Mining operation include adult literacy and numeracy training. A total of 1,896 residents in the chefferie of Luhwindja successfully completed two literacy training phases of six months each. 95 percent of the beneficiaries are women. Phase III of the program is mainly numeracy training, with 272 individuals completing the program by the end of 2012. The same program is offered in the neighboring chefferie of Burhinyi, whereby 1,210 adults have been enrolled in literacy training phase and another 445 adults in numeracy training.
The Banro Foundation has set as one of its eight guiding principles the promotion of social and economic opportunities for women. We appreciate that initiatives such as the above, and others which Banro and the Foundation have undertaken, are only a start in dealing with a very difficult challenge. We plan to do much more in the years ahead to support local women.
Chairman, Banro Foundation
Development through education and skills development, improving health care, evolving infrastructure and encouragement of local business – leading to long-term, enhanced opportunities and quality of life for local Congolese communities.