Youth Coalition for No Youth in Armed Groups
Recurrent conflicts involving government forces and ethnic-based armed groups have been the major cause of continued violations of human rights including systematic rapes, massive internal and external displacements and indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians in Fizi territory. There seems to be a consensus among those working in and for the DRC that unless armed groups are weakened, if not wiped out, violence will never end in Eastern DRC.
YC-4-No-YAG approach is designed to destroy the very thing which has kept armed groups afloat for the last decades: their legitimacy amongst youth. The project raises youth awareness on ethnic manipulation by politicians and warlords and sensitizes youth on non-violent ways to resolving conflicts. It does this by holding interethnic youth marches and conferences, creating local youth peace committees and partnerships with other local organizations, and promoting August 13 as a No Youth in Armed Groups Day in Fizi territory.
Project implementation has been piloted in Baraka and Bibokoboko in South Kivu’s Fizi territory, Eastern DR Congo. Baraka is predominantly inhabited by Babembe communities while Bibokoboko's residents are Banyamulenge. The Babembe and Banyamulenge have for years been involved in ethnic conflicts.
LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
There seems to be a consensus that lack of strong leadership is the key root cause of the multiple problems facing the DR Congo. With this in mind, IED and Congo Leadership Initiative (CLI) entered into a partnership in 2012 to pilot the LDP implementation in Baraka in Eastern DR Congo's province of South Kivu.
LPD aims to enhance the leadership abilities of those best positioned to bring about change in Fizi territory: young leaders. To achieve its mission, LDP consists of three key components namely:
• The Leadership Accelerator (August) is LDP’s original, flagship component. It is a concentrated, weeklong leadership practicum. Participants are selected based on the merits of their talent and leadership potential.
• The Leadership Workshop (February) is a concentrated version of the Leadership Accelerator that takes place over the course of one weekend with specially selected participants.
• The Leadership Institute (October-January and March-June) is a cutting edge, comprehensive curriculum that is groundbreaking in Congo. It launches with the Leadership Accelerator and continues with monthly meetings and life-long affiliation. All youth are welcome to participate in the Institute.
Our programming proceeds along parallel tracks, at once enhancing the core leadership skills of Congo’s young population (via problem-solving, teamwork, and decision-making) and exploring the concept of selflessness and the social responsibility of leaders. A sample annual programming cycle can be found below.
IED's young leaders are already making a perceptible difference in their neighborhoods and schools via community action projects and students mentorship, such as first class’ 16 young leaders collected and burned hundreds of used plastic bags in an effort to make their town clean, and Mbelechi (F) who mobilized other three young people and organized, on world day of social justice (20th February), a radio program aimed at promoting girl child’s education.
In our program evaluations, young leaders and community members emphasized IED's impact on the lives of the youth in Congo.
• IED leader Bwinja (F) characterizes her experience as follows: “The program has enabled me to identify various resources in my community which can be used for the betterment of people’s lives”
• IED leader Mrisho (M) notes that, “Through this program, I have come to realize that youth can also bring positive change in the community and it is our responsibility as youth to find solutions to many of the challenges facing our communities.”
• IED former young facilitator Timothé’s elder brother, during a visit by IED’s young leaders to the bereaved family, sums up IED’s motivations for scaling succinctly when he says, “It is very rare these days to find a program capable of changing young people into responsible and useful members of the community like IED programming does. It needs to reach more young people”.
Solar Lanterns for Socio-economic Empowerment
SL4SE aims to promote socio-economic empowerment of rural and semi-urban poor households by increasing their access to low-cost, well-performing and durable solar lanterns.
About 94 percent of the Congolese do not have access to electricity. The 6 percent of Congolese who have access to electricity represents a small portion of those living in main urban centers including Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Kisangani and Bukavu. This means that the situation in rural areas is deplorable in terms of people’s access to electricity.
For the last decade or so, the Congo government in collaboration with its multi and bilateral partners has embarked on an ambitious, $80-billion electricity generation project based on the upgrading of Congo’s Inga dam. However, past experiences show that infrastructure investment can bypass poor people completely for the benefit of powerful interests.
Over the past decades, billions of dollars have been invested in the DRC's power sector. They have created a stark energy divide: eighty-five percent of the country's electricity is consumed by energy-intensive industries, particularly mining companies in southern Katanga province. As a result, the overwhelming majority of poor families in the DRC have been left in the dark for too long.
Research by International Rivers and International Energy Agency and IED’s experiences with dlight products in Eastern Congo demonstrate that there is a different approach for energy distribution to communities hard to reach through electric grids. The International Energy Agency proposes that 70 percent of the investment needed to provide energy for all should go into local mini-grids and off-grid solutions such as micro hydropower, solar, and wind. The cost of these technologies has fallen rapidly in recent years.
IED’s distribution work of d.light lanterns in South Kivu indicates that high-quality solar lanterns can have multiple socio-economic impacts on poor families. They light family homes and charge cell phones at less than half the cost that poor consumers pay for dirty kerosene, candles and mobile charging services every year. The money saved through the use of solar lanterns can be used to pay for children’s education and health care or be used to start a small business.
Solar lanterns also improve education performance of poor students by enabling them to read exercise books at night. Further, they boost small businesses and increase local productivity by enabling people to work extra hours at night. And they improve both the delivery and use of health care in poor communities. Through solar lanterns, health centers can easily provide health services at night. Mothers are also facilitated at night to effectively administer treatment to their infants.
But, like other inclusive business projects at the pyramid’s base, a strong investment in stimulating customer awareness and demand is critical to SL4SE’s success.
IED has partnered with d.light design, a US-based company that manufactures and distributes solar lanterns. The company has already run successful projects with partner organizations in India, Tanzania and Kenya. IED has so far distributed at low cost about 500 d.light S2 lanterns to more than 300 poor households in Fizi territory alone.
By mid-2013, IED will have developed a scalable social business plan, with great potential for sustainable growth and significant contribution to community development in the DR Congo.