DR Congo Youth Use Work to Carve Out an Alternative to Violence

Dec. 21, 2021

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Chronic poverty and lack of education is driving thousands of young people in Eastern DR Congo into the clutches of armed groups and rebel forces. By supporting youth to find work and get their business ideas off the ground, War Child is working to turn this around.

A generation of Congolese youth, immersed in decades of armed conflict, have known little else than terror and violence - and the serious impact this has had on their mental health, education and wellbeing. Most have one overarching need - a nurturing environment to help them process the past, cope with the present and find new hope and opportunities for the future. This is the ethos behind War Child’s Addressing Root Causes (ARC) project – a five-year project recently completed in collaboration with Dutch organisations ZOA and VNGI.

New analysis by Save the Children and the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) reveals that one in eight children - 337 million children worldwide - are at risk of recruitment by armed groups - three times more than in 1990.

In DR Congo - which was also rated as one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a child - the enduring conflict has exposed boys and girls to daily acts of violence as well as driven them into hard labour - such as jobs in mines and quarries - and illegal sex work.

Ex-child soldier in Eastern DR Congo is now a master carpenter thanks to our ARC project

Business Start-Up Funds

Supporting youths to find work or regular income - and the added social status that comes with it - significantly reduces their chances of being pushed or pulled into a world of crime. It allows them to play an active role in their society - and while still immersed in conflict, to pursue a more stable and meaningful life.

As part of the ARC project, War Child has supported thousands of youth in 13 villages of Kalehe territory in Eastern DR Congo to launch and grow their own business, providing them with start-up funds, access to micro-credit and vocational and entrepreneurial training. After completing their training, they received start-up funds in the form of materials - such as basic tools to start up a carpentry business - or micro-credit from village banks, based on a business plan. An important part of this involved providing genuine, nurturing support and guidance - helping them turn their personal tragedies into triumphs.

Through entrepreneurial and vocational training, we helped youth prepare themselves for the labour market, manage self-employment and identify business opportunities. We also supported local community-based and youth organisations to engage in building constructive dialogues with local government institutions to contribute to peacebuilding in the area. Through training, they learned how to advocate for effective ways to improve their context, such as resolving conflicts, improving security and infrastructure and reducing local taxes

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Carving Out an Identity

A young person like Kanumba*, now 26, was once the ultimate candidate for rebel forces. Growing up as an orphan in South Kivu, with the weight of war on his shoulders, his life experience was misery and hardship. Outbreaks of inter-community violence, fighting for natural resources and the presence of armed groups created a hostile environment and meant that he could not rely on his community for support.

Today, with War Child’s support, Kanumba is a master carpenter running a carpentry business with other youth - and is a happy husband, using his knowledge and skills to carve out his future - and his identity.

“The first benefit I had was that I was recognized as a responsible person”, he says. “I was previously treated as a thief in the community.”

And the benefits don’t end there…

Kanumba: “After a year working, I now earn enough to feed my family. I hope, one day I can train others so I can achieve good results and go up in life.”

“The first benefit I had was that I was recognized as a responsible person. I was previously treated as a thief in the community."

*Name changed to protect identity