Patuakamuena, is a 12-year-old girl who lives in Kasai, Democratic Republic of Congo. Due to war and poverty, young girls like her are at risk of getting married at an early stage. “I hope peace will return in my area."

Poverty threatening the future of young girls in Kasai, Democratic Republic of Congo

“My name is Patuakamuena. I am 12 years old. I stopped going to school when I was in grade 4. My parents had no money to pay for my school fees. My parents are farmers. They grow and sell vegetables. 

I was at the market with my mother. I was helping her to sell vegetables. She wanted to raise money for my fees. Suddenly we heard people shouting. People started running in different directions. We realized that it was war. I and my mother ran to our house. But there was nobody. My father and my siblings (two brothers and one sister) had already gone to the bush to hide. 

We joined other people who were going to the bush to hide. There at the bush, we met my father, my brothers and my sister. I was happy to see them alive. 

I and my family spent a month in the bush hiding. It was hard to get food. I was hungry most of the times. We returned home after the war stopped. Our house was damaged. The chicken and goats my parents were keeping were stolen. 

A lot of girls stopped going to school because of poverty. More girls stopped going to school because of the war. 

A lot of men take advantage of poverty to propose young girls. I know some girls in my village who got married early because of poverty. A lot of men have tried to propose me. I say no. I know I am still young. I want to go back to school. 

I help my mother to draw water and to cook. I also help her to sell vegetables. Whenever I am free, I go to the centre (Child Friendly Space) for catch up studies. I also go there to play with friends. 

I learn a lot of things at the centre. I like to recite alphabet. 

I would like to become a teacher or a nun when I grow up. I admire teachers and nuns because they dress well. 

I hope that one day, peace will return in my area. I am asking leaders to support young girls with good education. Young girls should be given school fees and learning materials. 

The leaders should discuss about protecting young girls. They should put tough laws that stop men from marrying young girls."

 

Since August 2016, over 2.5 million inhabitants of Grand Kasai, Tanganyika andSouth Kivu have been forced from their homes escaping violence. The Humanitarian Response Plan for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for 2018 predicts that 13.1 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection this year. 

More than 60% of these are children: 7.9 million girls and boys under the age of 18 are in dire need of support to survive and to thrive. Nearly 4.6 million people are facing emergency levels of food insecurity, with 2 million children at risk of severe acute malnutrition. More than 400 schools around Kasai were sacked, burned down or destroyed during the war and 440,000 children were unable to complete their 2016-2017 school year (UNICEF Report). 

World Vision declared a Category III National Emergency in the Kasais in July 2017, and scaled the response up to a Global Category III in November 2017. 

World Vision’s goal is to reach 1 million beneficiaries in the Kasais by December 2018. Interventions focus on Education, Food Security, Nutrition, Child Protection and WASH, with a funding goal of 40 million US$.