Women’s Groups of the Reserve

Since 2006, Okapi Conservation Project has supported the empowerment of women through five Women’s Groups across the Reserve. Women are influential members of the community, filling many roles across a variety of fields. They have been open and supportive of our conservation efforts in the Ituri Forest, and in order to provide them with a larger voice in the community, we support their goals and endeavors for economic growth. By providing materials, sewing machines, training and administrative assistance to Women’s Groups, women can establish micro-enterprises making and selling items such as school uniforms, clothing, napkins, embroidery and more in the local markets. In 2020, these women adapted to the restrictions and recommendations around COVID-19 by making face masks which they supply to those in need, and sell the surplus for additional income. Profit from the women’s enterprises goes into a communal fund used for emergency expenses, healthcare, and children’s education.

A hand crank sewing machine used by the women’s groups.

A women’s group accepts a new delivery of fabric.

Currently most of the Women’s Groups gather outside, where their ability to work is subject to inclement weather, but OCP is working to change that. We built our first Women’s Center in Mambasa in 2019. Here, women were free to meet and work regardless of weather conditions. The center also provides a secure place for women to secure their materials and equipment. Since then, the use of the center has become so vital for increasing the production of items and therefore increasing the amount of income. BEcause of the success of the building in Mambasa, We plan to construct a building in each of the four remaining towns where our women’s groups are located.

A women’s group meeting gathers outside in Mambasa.

The 2019 Mambasa Women’s Center.

Thanks to a generous donor through WCN, we are happy to announce the completion of our second Women’s Center in Epulu. On March 8th, International Women’s Day, we will celebrate the holiday with a ceremony for the grand opening of the building. This will not only provide the women of Epulu with a comfortable location to gather and work, but the building will also function as the home of the Epulu Radio Station where our educators will broadcast educational messages and critical news and conservation education across the Reserve.

Construction of the Women’s Center in Epulu.

But we don’t want to stop there. With this momentous day right around the corner, we’ve set a goal to raise $15,000 from today to till March 15th to advance the training of all five women’s groups. Join us in supporting the women of the Reserve, and give them a voice to help save the okapi.