* Links American and Congolese social healers whose programs in education, the arts, health care and economic justice enable community schools, clinics and small businesses to thrive;
* Supports community-based, multi-ethnic organizations in the D.R. Congo working to revitalize household economies and repair health and education infrastructures;
* Supports organizations working towards the emergence of a Congolese state that is accountable to all of its citizens;
* Promotes research, discussions and dissemination of the economic, social and political realities in the D.R. Congo to break through past and current silences which engender genocide.
Mbongi Women’s Retail for School Fees: an OBA Microcredit Project
Mbongi is a Kikongo word describing a social, mental, and physical space that communities create and use to resolve issues. In this space, everyone has the right and responsibility to speak up. Our sister organization in Kinshasa, the Center for Human Dignity, has been encouraging communities to create their own Mbongis to focus on their most pressing issues.
There are now Mbongi in 10 of the 24 city districts in Kinshasa, as well as in Lower Congo and in Bandudu Provinces. They each have the general objective of strengthening community self-confidence, but each addresses different issues, depending on the circumstances of the commune.
During discussions between one of our board members and members of the central Mbongi (which supports the creation and functioning of the Mbongis in the city districts and elsewhere), it became clear that one of the most pressing needs for the familes of the Mbongis in Kinshasa is the ability to pay school fees. Teachers in both public and private schools in Kinshasa must be paid by the parents, and many families have difficulty raising money for these fees. For the thousands of women in Kinshasa involved in small retail businesses, a loan of $150 or less would allow them to expand their businesses (by purchasing a small appliance, cold box, etc.) sufficiently to repay the loan and to pay school fees for their children.
Under the policies set up by the Mbongi,
• the project will be managed/monitored by three women members of the Mbongi.
• Recipients must be Mbongi members.
• Recipients must provide a credible proposal for the use of the loan.
• Recipients would repay the loan starting one week after they receive it.
• Loan amounts would not exceed $150, including administrative costs.
• The Mbongi’s main rule for ensuring honesty and transparency is that if a member fails to repay a loan, no new loans will be made to that particular Mbongi.
• Loans would be made twice a year starting in April 2007.
• OBA will evaluate the loan process after three cycles.
In a series of fundraising events, donors contributed $6000 toward this goal. The project was launched in the spring of 2007 with loans to 40 women.
See project details and how you can become involved.
Center for Human Dignity
The Ota Benga Center for Human Dignity works in coalition with more than twenty community development and human rights organizations. It works through traditional community institutions, Mbongi, on:
• issues of human dignity through legal and political channels;
• community development activities, some resulting in the creation of more Mbongi—so far, 10 Mbongi have been created around the city of Kinshasa, one of them being the Mbongi Women’s Retail for Schools Microcredit Project.
• community civic education regarding the organization of politics in the DRC;
• workshops, seminars, and publications on democratic processes and peace.
Ernest Wamba dia Wamba (left) and Nkanza Ndolomingu
The Math Project arose around the question of how to advance the creativity of Congolese mathematicians. People in the DRC felt that how science is taught and experienced is part of the problem. There is too much memorization, and even those who are literate in math aren’t creative.
A Congolese mathematician named Nkanza Ndolomingu and others discussed a plan for observing teachers who are successful in promoting creativity in math, experimenting with various techniques to improve analytical thinking skills, and eventually preparing a manual which could be distributed to schools in the Congo. The book, Introduction to the initiation of the spirit of creativity and discovery in Math, has been produced.
As part of this project, we hope at some point that two or three Congolese mathematicians can observe math teaching techniques at the Algebra Project in Mississippi, started by Robert Moses.
Abahlali baseMjondolo The Durban Shackdwellers Movement
The Ota Benga Alliance supports and stands in solidarity with the Abahlali baseMjondolo (Shack Dwellers) Movement begun in Durban, South Africa, in early 2005. Although it is overwhelmingly located in and around the large port city of Durban it is, in terms of the numbers of people mobilised, the largest organisation of the militant poor in post-apartheid South Africa. The movement’s key demand is for ‘Land & Housing in the City’ but it has also successfully politicised and fought for an end to forced removals and for access to education and the provision of water, electricity, sanitation, health care and refuse removal as well as bottom up popular democracy. In some settlements the movement has also successfully set up projects like crèches, gardens, sewing collectives, support for people living with and orphaned by AIDS and so on. It has also organised a 16 team football league and quarterly all night multi genre music competitions. See more on Abahlali baseMjondolo.
The Hibakusha of Japan
Members of the Ota Benga Alliance have met with Keiji Tsuchiya and Satoru Konishi, Hibakusha (survivors of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) who were visiting the U.S. for ceremonies and protests on the anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by U.S. forces in 1945. We salute the Hibakusha’s life-long efforts to heal the world from that devastation, and stand with them in the struggle to end forever the development, use and storage of nuclear weapons.
From August 4-11, 2006, Mr. Tsuchiya visited the San Francisco Bay Area. He came with a series of his paintings, begun in 2005, which retold what he had seen and felt during the bombing, when he was garrisoned on an island not far from Hiroshima. The paintings were photographed as Mr. Tsuchiya was speaking about them, and this event is being produced as a DVD by Kathy Sloane, with the help of Michele Mason, a member of Western States Legal Foundation . The Documentary Witness to Hiroshima was completed in 2008. For more information or to purchase the DVD please click on the title.
The story of the Hibakusha is emblematic of what all survivors have suffered, from Atlantic and Oriental slavery to genocides, certified or uncertified. As in reading books written by Holocaust survivors, it is difficult not to sense the eagerness to recount something which the survivors themselves cannot believe they went through. The eagerness is blunted by diffidence that the audience will understand the dimension of what one part of humanity has inflicted on another.
The Hibakusha, like other survivors, are not treated as they should be because they were not (in the eyes and calculations of the perpetrators of the crime) supposed to have survived.
For the Ota Benga Alliance, there is a connection between the Hibakusha and the surviving collective memory, from Africa across the bottom of the Atlantic to the West Indies and the Americas. The flashes over Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not only the modernization of what happened at Auschwitz, but they had been prepared over the centuries through acceptance of the mind set that says, like a mantra, it is ok to eradicate those we hate.
Give back my father, give back my mother;
Give grandpa back, grandma back;
Give me my sons and daughters back.
Give me back myself.
Give back the human race.
As long as this life lasts, this life,
Give back peace
That will never end.
For more on the Hibakusha, see Nihon Hidankyo, Japan Federation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, and a letter from the Ota Benga Alliance to the Hibakusha.
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