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Rosalie is an ex-combatant living in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who was forced to join the army aged 15. Photo: Arlette Bashizi/Caritas Australia

Rosalie's story

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

From her life as a former child soldier in the DRC, Rosalie is a now a business owner, a community leader and a role model for other ex-combatants seeking to readjust to civilian life.

Rosalie looks out from the deck of a passenger boat after buying shoes from a market in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Rosalie travels to Goma, the main market town in the region, by boat about twice a month to buy second-hand shoes. Photo: Arlette Bashizi/Caritas Australia
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Rosalie looks out from the deck of a passenger boat after buying shoes from a market in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Rosalie travels to Goma, the main market town in the region, by boat about twice a month to buy second-hand shoes. Photo: Arlette Bashizi/Caritas Australia

Rosalie had a tough childhood. Her father passed away when she was just two-years-old and her mother struggled to look after the family on her own.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, women are traditionally responsible for household tasks, with limited employment opportunities outside the home. Rosalie's mother found it difficult to afford food and clothing, let alone school fees, and Rosalie had to drop out school.

Then, when she was just 15 years old, Rosalie was forced to join the army. In recent decades, the DRC has experienced ongoing political instability, violence and conflict, and the recruitment of child soldiers is all too common.

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Rosalie picks up her youngest daughter from school near her home in Bukavu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Arlette Bashizi/Caritas Australia

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“I was in the battlefield with my baby on my back. I walked with a child in my left hand, a box of ammunition on my head and another child on my back. I also had a weapon on my right shoulder. The chief commander had no mercy on me, even though I had my baby on my back.”

Rosalie

When Rosalie finally left the army after six years, she was eager to start a new life, free from violence. But like many ex-combatants, Rosalie found the challenge to adjust to civilian life overwhelming. With her childhood and education cut short by the war, she had missed out on developing skills that would help her to find secure employment.

With your generous help, Rosalie was able to participate in business and social skills training, supported by Caritas Australia’s partners, Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) and Caritas Bukavu.

Rosalie also joined a Saving and Internal Lending Community group (SILC), which helped her with a loan to start her own small business, selling second-hand shoes and natural remedies. She learnt savings and group management skills and became the SILC group’s president.

Rosalie (standing) attends a Saving and Internal Lending Community group (SILC) meeting near her home in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Rosalie is now the president of this SILC group which provided a loan to start her business. Photo: Arlette Bashizi/Caritas Australia
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Rosalie (standing) attends a Saving and Internal Lending Community group (SILC) meeting near her home in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Rosalie is now the president of this SILC group which provided a loan to start her business. Photo: Arlette Bashizi/Caritas Australia

Through the program, she gained essential skills in generating an income while gaining a sense of belonging and community spirit.

Rosalie is now a business owner, a community leader and a role model for other ex-combatants who are seeking to readjust to civilian life. She is inspiring women and other members of her community to overcome the violence of the past, to work towards a more peaceful and harmonious world for all future generations.

Your generous support today can help people like Rosalie to create a better tomorrow for their families and communities. 

Along with your generous support, this program is also supported by the Australian Government, through Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

Your donation can help:

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Rosalie (standing) attends a Saving and Internal Lending Community group (SILC) meeting near her home in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Rosalie is now the president of this SILC group which provided a loan to start her business. Photo: Arlette Bashizi/Caritas Australia

Increase income for vulnerable communities

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Rosalie harvests plants used for natural medicine which she has grown in a neighbour’s garden near her home in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. As well as selling second-hand shoes, Rosalie makes an income by growing and selling natural medicine at her local market. Photo: Arlette Bashizi/Caritas Australia

Train female leaders

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Rosalie outside home with some of her children in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Arlette Bashizi/Caritas Australia

Support happy and healthy families