Focus on a Leader Mentor: Francine13th October 2018

Recently, our team met up with Francine, who is a Leader Mentor and Facilitator with us in Masisi, DRC.

Francine is a truly inspirational young woman. We first met her in November 2017, when she applied for our WYLD programme. In the months since, she has developed her skills, discovered a passion for seeing positive change and is now a powerful force for good in her community. This is recognised even beyond those of us who are close to Francine: earlier this year, she was invited to work for the local authorities in Masisi territory to support young people and community development. We asked her if she’d mind telling her story in her own words, and this is what she shared with us…

I am Francine, a young woman from Masisi, DRC. I am 26 years old and I have lived with my family in Masisi Centre since I was born. I am a Christian and I love God. I finished high school and got my secondary diploma.

I heard about The Congo Tree in October 2017, through the talk of some friends here in Masisi. They explained to me the different activities that are done by The Congo Tree. I was inspired by what I heard about the way they do things, how they supported the solving of problems in the community, and how they positively influenced others by seeking sustainable development in community life. I was fortunate that, in November 2017, I was given a chance to be part of this great family of The Congo Tree and I myself experienced how to develop my personal skills.

Before starting my training with The Congo Tree, I was a girl who did not have any trust or confidence in myself, nor others. Given the overwhelming narrative in our community that says that a woman is a weak and helpless being, I felt I could not do anything; that I just had to stay in the kitchen and watch the children. I was completely indoctrinated by this way of thinking: I believed that I had no strengths and that boys were the only ones capable of anything. The question of gender is really a big challenge in my community here in Masisi. This way of thinking prevented me from knowing my own skills personally, but also the community could not benefit from how my abilities and skills could help solve some of the problems in the community. I found it impossible to communicate my thoughts with others or even speak publicly; I felt myself close in upon myself to the point where I could not even have good ideas for others. I was not allowed to flourish or even to know what others thought about my opinions.

Thanks to The Congo Tree and the practical training I undertook, I discovered that I had skills and began to know who I was. Through listening to the colleagues that I trained with and by sharing our different experiences, I have realised that I can and must start today and not wait until tomorrow: I now understand that having influence or being a leader is not contingent on gender but on the actions that we can each make in the community: even small actions can have great influence and bring about a big change.

Very soon after my initial training with The Congo Tree, I rebelled [against the narrative I had grown up with] and decided that I must be an actor of social change. I started to put into action several activities that would allow the youth in my village to flourish. This is how the state authorities, through the division of social affairs, became aware of me and the skills I have to work for the good of the community. At the moment, I work in the social affairs division and I feel very fulfilled because I now work for the good of the community, in an official capacity.

I say a big thank you to The Congo Tree because I know that, today, I am competent in what I do thanks to them. The Congo Tree has awakened a desire in me to always dream big and work hard to achieve my vision. And now I’m also part of the team of facilitators in Masisi and it allows me to always be in contact with young people and to record the many examples of good leadership and development that I see. I remain completely committed to social action because I am going to be part of bringing solutions to my community by reducing the poverty rate.


Picture: Francine with the Young Leader she mentors

I really like being a Mentor. It helps me to understand my influence on others; after having discovered my own skills, I must now transmit this learning to my Mentee [and support her to do the same]. At the level of our community, seeing two villages speak is not always a good thing, but when the two of us talk, we speak of development, of change, of an increase of our capacities. In the few months since our mentoring relationship began, my mentee has changed a lot. She now understands her true place and value, and she is no longer restricted by the views [of us, as girls] of the community and our culture. We have set goals together that we are working on and we hope to reach them by the end of this mentoring programme. My mentee and myself currently work together once a month to inform other girls too, so that together we can break the prejudices of the community. I believe in her and her competence; I know that she will go far with her dreams because she works hard to achieve it.

For all the other young people [in my community], I am going to strive to make them aware of who they are: to help them understand that they are the authors of change in our area, an area that arises so very recently from war. With the Congo Tree, we must accompany these young people in their actions so that we can awaken in them the concern to always be better than today.


Picture: Francine and our team of Facilitators in Masisi.