Microfinance has become widely regarded as an important tool for empowering women and addressing gender inequality in an economy. As the Events and Social Media Intern, I serve Totonga Bomoi with a social enterprise study mission to learn how very poor women are improving the lives of their families.

In the village of Aru, Congo where our social enterprise was initiated, the local economy is very simple. Those who are active in the local labor market are employed or self-employed as farmers and day laborers who do not have regular work. There are of course a few with some basic skills in sewing and machinery, etc. However, due to lack of government policies, cooperation becomes the key element for people to improve their social and economic development status.

Totonga Bomoi gathered with 10 local women to create the first artisan cooperative in 2014 and recently partnered with Yobel International to provide accounting, marketing, and leadership education for these women to create and manage business of their own. We believe that education will be a benefit to the empowerment of women as gender equality is realized and will serve these women to stand against injustice and violence.

Last weekend, Katie, Founder of Totonga Bomoi, showed me a report of these women’s salary increase, from 25 dollars a month to almost 150 dollars a month. One of our artisans, Julienne Buve said, “With my earnings, I purchased a sewing machine which I have transferred to our cooperative office that opened in March 2015!” Another artisan, Bernadette Enaru, said, “I was able to use money that I earned through our cooperative to buy the building materials. Our cooperative has also allowed me to support my siblings with their education. Receiving one’s secondary diploma is very important to the future of my country.”

These women are looking forward to creating many more products! It has always been the social enterprise and NGOs to fill the gap between the government, who provides public services; and the private sector that usually only engages in for-profit business agendas.