March 21, 2022
Divina, a young Congolese woman was forced to drop out of school because she was pregnant. In 2013, Malaika [embed link to https://malaika.org/], a nonprofit grassroots organization that empowers Congolese girls and their communities through education and health programs, paid for Divina to return to school at their community center. She graduated, got her degree, and now is a teacher at the center. Girls at the center recognize Divina’s determination and look up to her as a role model.
Divina is just one success story out of the thousands of people in the community of Kalebuka and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that Malaika has helped educate since its inception in 2007. “Malaika made me become a confident girl, and one equipped to help other young people. The Divina that I am today is totally different from the one before the opening of the community center.”
Nöella Coursaris Musunka, a philanthropist born in the DRC founded Malaika because she witnessed firsthand the poverty and lack of opportunity for women in the country. “In a region that is in the center of a thriving mineral mining sector, conflicts have plagued the DRC for generations, destroying its infrastructure including schools and vocational training centers,” shares Nöella. “Subsequently, Congolese people are often unable to secure the skills needed to enter the formal workplace.”
Working with the Caterpillar Foundation, Malaika has built out mechanical and electrical training courses, focusing on closing community skills gaps and providing new job opportunities in the DRC: electricians, auto mechanics, and technicians. Malaika’s community-driven model has been integral since its founding, and through a comprehensive, locally led approach, an entire village has undergone a transformative ripple effect. The students have 1,200 contact hours in group classes and cover topics such as safety, machine mechanics, diesel mechanics, gasoline engine management, auto electronics, brake systems, suspension and steering, and manual driving skills.
For the past 70 years, we at the Caterpillar Foundation have heard first-hand the most pressing challenges that people face and where the most dire needs exist. Year after year, stories like Divina’s inspire the Foundation and drive our commitment.
On this Women’s History Month, we are celebrating our amazing partners in Africa like Malaika, who are currently giving 400 girls a high-quality education. Malaika is helping women and girls acquire the skills necessary to compete in the job market, which will enrich the community talent pool and provide economic opportunities throughout their lifetimes.