The Democratic Republic of the Congo remains in the struggle of post-colonial challenges. War and civil unrest, disease, and corruption among the elite have wreaked havoc on this central African country for more than twenty-five years, destroying its nascent economic and social foundations. By some estimates, the DRC now ranks as the poorest country in the world. This is despite vast wealth in natural resources and human capital. With corruption continuing to “permeate all levels of government and all sectors of the economy,” revenue from the country’s vast mineral wealth never reaches the people. The number of people living in abject poverty has more than doubled since the mid-1990s. And, even with conditions improving slightly in the past few years, more than 64% of Congolese citizens remain below the poverty line.
Decades of armed conflict killed more than 5.4 million men, women and children. More than 4 million children have been orphaned by disease and violence. By early 2018, an estimated 4.5 million people had been uprooted and displaced from their homes.
Many fleeing conflict zones have sought refuge in less troubled areas of the country, most often in big cities like Lubumbashi, located just a few hours’ walk from the Women Rising Legacy Project farm. Lubumbashi, originally designed for less than a quarter of a million inhabitants, is now home to more than 1.8 million residents, most of whom struggle to find food and clean water.
Throughout the country, women are subject to violence and exploitation. In the vast rural countryside, the mining industry controls enormous swaths of land, and only 0.4% of people have access to electricity. Women’s search for wood or other fuel to cook the small amounts of grain they may have puts them in harm’s way every day. Because they have little decision- making power and very limited resources, women of the DRC face overwhelming daily struggles and bleak futures.