Global Leaders

Church Women Reduce Poverty and Increase Hope in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Church Women Reduce Poverty and Increase Hope in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Alfo Ngoy, a small business owner, sells palm oil to raise money for her children’s education.

In North Katanga in the Democratic Republic of Congo, United Methodist church women are sowing seeds, grants supplied by United Methodist Women to grow entrepreneurial enterprises, agribusinesses and income-generating handicrafts for the benefit of families, churches and communities.

In the country formerly known as Zaire, the women are rebuilding a civil society during an unprecedented time of poverty. According to a recent United Nations report, “Four in ten people in the DRC are food insecure, with some 15.6 million suffering ‘crisis’ or ‘emergency’ levels of hunger.”

To make ends meet, several United Methodist church women sell food and oil in the marketplace. These United Methodist partners remain resilient, hopeful and prayerful during this season of poor crops, pandemic and government instability. Among the inspiring women, Afo Ngoy and Marie Ilunga, have drawn upon local resources to feed their families and provide community stability.

Meet Alfo Ngoy

Alfo Ngoy, 48 years old, is a widow of a soldier murdered in 1999 and mother of a boy and a girl. Ms. Ngoy sells palm oil at the market to support her children and pay their school fees. At her local Methodist parish, she serves as the chair of social affairs.

Meet Marie Ilunga

Selling salted fish in the market to feed her family, Mother Marie Ilunga, 62 years old, is a Methodist block leader in her parish. Widowed since 2015, she has 11 children, five boys and six girls, with one child, a university student, still at home. Ms. Ilunga is supporting her family by selling her delicious fish.

Small businesses need financial support, according to Maman Anyari, the Women’s President of United Methodist Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who shared additional requests from women in the region: reading and writing in English and French, computer literacy and skills in sewing and cooking.

Meet Kipendano

The Congolese United Methodist Women have named their organization Kipendano, the Swahaili word for love. Translated into English, the Kipendano constitution lists some of its goals:

  • To help women learn, understand and spread the name and work of Jesus Christ;
  • To do God’s work as a community;
  • To participate and fulfill the work of the church.

To become a member of Kipendano, a woman must be a member of the United Methodist Church. And, according to the constitution, qualities of members include:

  • To have a loving heart;
  • To be able to assist in church duties;
  • To assist the pastor in spreading the word of God;
  • To teach children the way of Jesus.

The women of Kipendano and their consistent and loving care for children reduces the burden of poverty and hunger in the region. Acute malnutrition afflicts 3.4 million Congolese children, according to the United Nations. Throughout the region, United Methodist Women’s partners, such as Ms. Ilunga and Ms. Ngoy, offer sustenance through their business ventures and church work. 

Rev. Makonga Kyakutala Odette is chaplain and communicator for the United Methodist Women Country Team for the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mary Beth Coudal is a journalist. Grace Musuka is a United Methodist Women’s Regional Missionary serving the leaders of United Methodist Women organizations in Central Africa.

Posted or updated: 9/4/2020 12:00:00 AM

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Marie Ilunga in the Market
Marie Ilunga, a United Methodist Woman church leader in North Katanga, offers salted fish in the market to support her family. 

United Methodist Women Economic Development Initiative (EDI) creates economic opportunities even in the most vulnerable rural communities. The seed grants support women entrepreneurs to start and run viable small enterprises, agribusinesses and income-generating activities. The opportunities that these small grants create for women, their families and communities are powerful catalysts, especially during COVID-19 when the economic situation is becoming more and more insecure.