Amani Matabaro Tom
Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo
The grim reality of war has long been a part of Amani Matabaro Tom’s life. Currently thirty-one years old, Amani grew up in Mimosho, a village near Bukavu. When war broke out in DRC in 1996 both of his parent were shot and killed. Amani struggled to move on, but eventually went to university. After school, Amani’s work as a translator and program assistant for the International Rescue Committee exposed him to the immense sexual violence Congolese women were suffering. Rape is an oft used weapon of war in Congo that brutalizes women of all ages, leaving them severely traumatized, both emotionally and physically.
In early 2006, two of Amani’s cousins were raped and abducted. They managed to escape and took refuge in Amani’s home. Not only were they left without a means to financially support themselves, but their days were filled with the memories of their attacks and the constant experience of war around them. Amani decided to do something to help his cousins begin to heal, and to regain some of their independence and self-esteem. He created a sewing workshop for them as a means to learn a valuable skill and be able to focus on something other than the atrocities they had suffered.
The workshop was a big success and soon other women from the community began to join. “The workshop is helping the women acquire skills that will help them in the future,” Amani explains. It also creates a strong support network amongst the women, and empowers them as productive members of the community.
Amani is hoping to find enough funding to expand the program to other areas in eastern Congo. Currently he and his wife use their own money to finance the workshop. His dream is to be able to spread the program on a grassroots level, and create more opportunities for these women to emerge from the shadows of war and violence.