After the grand opening of the Epulu Women’s Center on International Women’s Day this year, we immediately went to work fundraising and planning a robust training for the 200+ women that are part of our five women’s groups around the Reserve.
Women fill so many vital roles across the landscape – from water collectors to farmers, healthcare workers to educators, rangers, and more. Okapi Conservation Project has long been organizing and supporting five Women’s Groups around the Reserve, whose members establish their own microenterprises to help cover healthcare costs, education fees, and emergency expenses for their families. These additional, sustainable income sources help improve their standard of living, while reducing their impact on the surrounding rainforest – the home of the okapi.
The Women’s Group training focused on diversifying the types of items these women know how to make and increasing the quality of their products. This not only generates additional income, but it also offers the ability to think differently and creatively in addition to empowering them to continue learning more.
Two to three women from each OCP Women’s Group around the Reserve (Mambasa, Mungbere, Watsa, and Wamba) traveled several days on the poor roads to Epulu, our headquarters, and the location for their 3-week intense training on embroidery, sewing, and other skills. Thanks to our OCP supporters, we were able to cover the cost of each woman’s travel, accommodations, and food during their entire stay at our facility, in addition to the two tailors/seamstresses who were providing the training. An additional grant from Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden provided materials and equipment for the women’s groups too!
Each of these women will take these new skills and share them with the rest of the women in each of their groups. Not only did they develop their skills and techniques, but they got to explore and work in the newest women’s center in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. They left refreshed and energized to make an impact for their families and the rainforest home of the okapi.
Currently, we have a Women’s Center in Mambasa (constructed in 2019) and Epulu (constructed in 2020/2021), and are securing funding to construct a women’s center in each of the three remaining villages where OCP women’s groups are located.