YEJ to support impoverished mining community in DRC

KOLWEZI Democratic Republic of Congo, 26 November 2012 – Youth Economic Justice (YEJ) has started a new programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that will support 30,000 people living in poverty. YEJ has signed an agreement to work with the Good Shepherd Foundation as they establish a centre that will provide opportunities for social and economic development to some of the poorest people in Kolwezi in southern DRC.

Following an appeal from the Bishop of Kolwezi in 2012, the Good Shepherd Foundation (GSF) established the centre in Domaine Marial, a migrant area on the outskirts of the city. The people of Kolwezi are extremely poor, subsisting on one meal a day at best. Most residents are artisanal miners in the often dangerous open pit mines nearby. Child labour is widespread. Violence and abuse is endemic. The area is close to a military base, which has facilitated prostitution. It is not uncommon for girls to have their first child before the age of 14.

Youth Economic Justice (YEJ) is helping the GSF centre by providing technical support to establish economic development and social protection programmes. YEJ is currently consulting with the community to understand the magnitude, nature and origins of abuse and violence against women and children in the community. Following this consultation, YEJ will work with GSF and the community to propose solutions to their most pressing problems. Economic empowerment and the protection of women and children from violence and abuse will be key concerns.

71% of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo live in poverty. This needn’t be the case. The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the world’s richest countries in terms of mineral resources. However, decades of conflict have killed over 5 million people and displaced millions more. Women and children make up the majority of internally displaced people. They are at significantly increased risk of physical and sexual abuse, human trafficking, disease and absolute poverty.

A considerable number of these displaced people have travelled to Kolwezi, a mineral rich area near the boarders with Zambia and Angola. They are attracted by the promise of regular work in the mines that surround the town. However, when migrants arrive, reality often doesn’t meet their expectations. Work is sporadic for many people. Conditions in the mines are often dangerous. There are insufficient schools and few opportunities for young people. Tensions frequently arise between the multiple ethnic groups of the community.

YEJ is committed to improving the lives of the people in Domain Mariale. Already, initial consultation with the young men and women of the community has revealed considerable determination to establish alternate livelihoods and improve access to health services and education.

Youth Economic Justice (YEJ) is a Scottish-based international development organisation working to open up opportunities for disenfranchised young men and women in low income countries. YEJ recognises young people as the lynch pins of sustainable economic and social development.

The Good Shepherd Foundation (GSF) have had a presence in Africa since the 1845. They have taken an active role on issues of women’s empowerment, anti-trafficking, and economic justice for women since the 1970s.