With Pact’s support, a young woman in DRC gains education, spreads peace
Born into a family of 11 children, Muloko Ngoy Anastasie didn’t have the opportunities that her parents wanted for her. Her father was a simple farmer in Sango Muntosha, a village 85 kilometers from Kalemie, in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Tanganyika province. He struggled to provide for his children.
The family faced other hardships, too. They are ethnic Twa, a group that has been at odds with the local Bantu community. Both groups inhabit Sango Muntosha.
Now 22, Anastasie was able to attend some school as a girl, but eventually her parents couldn’t afford it. She’d been out of classes for a year when a Bantu friend of her father agreed to pay for her schooling. Anastasie moved to Kalemie, where she studied until she recieved her state (high school) diploma.
But Anastasie had no plans for what would come next. Her family couldn’t afford university, and at home in Sango Muntosha, the situation was dire. Around 2016, inter-community conflict broke out in the village between the Twa and Bantu, bringing destruction and deaths. Houses and fields were burned and many people fled. Two of Anastasie’s brothers and an uncle were among those killed.
This is where the Pact-led Tanganyika Conflict Mitigation and Reconciliation project, or TCMR, came in. Funded by USAID, TCMR has been working since 2018 to build peace in DRC between the Twa and Bantu. The project includes social cohesion work in Sango Muntosha, namely awareness-raising activities on peaceful cohabitation that have enabled many to return to the village.
"I didn't know what to do, with no job or anything to do," Anastasie says. "I could still see myself going back to my village. My father had come several times to ask me to return, so I stayed focused in prayer, hoping to find the means to go to university."
It was at just the right time that Anastasie became connected with TCMR. Among the project’s goals is to increase educational opportunities among the Twa. Anastasie is one of eight Twa students to receive a scholarship from Pact's TCMR project in partnership with USAID, which she used to become one of the first Twa to attend the University of Kalemie. She was later chosen to represent the Twa and speak about their situation during a human rights forum in Geneva, Switzerland.
Anastasie has also taken on an technical internship with Pact. She has taken courses on conflict prevention and management that have equipped her to go to her village with messages of peace.
"I raise my brothers' awareness of the importance of living together and peaceful cohabitation. At least a dozen troublemakers in my village have become great builders of peace," she says. "We Twa used to be looked down on, but now we and our Bantu brothers go to the same health facilities, the same schools and pray in the same churches, so there's no more discrimination."
Anastasie recently took part in research on the nutritional situation of the Twa people in Tanganyika, carried out by the World Food Programme in partnership with the University of Kalemie, where she presented her findings to academic and administrative authorities and representatives of United Nations agencies and NGOs.
She says her future is now bright, and the lives of her family members have improved markedly, too. Her income helps to cover their expenses, including the full school tuition of one of Anastasie’s sisters.
She has become a role model in her village. She takes every opportunity to speak with other young people, girls in particular, telling them to embrace peace and strive for a better future. She encourages girls to put their studies before marriage.
Anastasie’s parents could not be prouder.
"It is Anastasie who keeps us going here in Sango Muntosha," her mother says. "I'm more than honored because I'm the only one who's had a child at university since my village was founded."
Her father says, "I wanted my children to study so they could be financially independent. I want a better future for my daughter."