Marceline BUDZA, a young woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo, is known for her work in defending human rights and empowering women.

Marceline studied agronomy at university, thanks her mother who raised her and her sisters and sent them all to school using the money she made from growing and selling pineapples and coffee.

Marceline created the Association of Women Cooperatives Rebuild Women’s Hope (RWH) in 2013 with a vision for change. She has worked tirelessly ever since to enable many women to regain economic independence and become active participants in society and the economy.

In 2015, she founded the organization RWH on the island of Idjwi, a small population where killings are at record levels and where the rebel group “Chance” had taken the entire island hostage, cruelly killing leaders and others, and raping women in the process. During this period, she received numerous threats from the rebels who sought to kill her.

In 2016, RWH was focusing its work on helping other women through coffee farming, allowing them to make their own choices instead of being victims to their futures, developing their potential to become economically active members of their communities in the DRC, where they are often neglected and marginalized.

Through the association that brings together more than 5,000 women coffee growers and through her international advocacy, she has been able to find customers abroad who have bought their coffees at six times the cost they used to pay. With this income, the association is solving many health problems that the government had not been able to solve for decades. First of all, the construction of the first maternal and pediatric clinic capable of treating more than 100,000 women in Idjwi. Second, the construction of a house that supports more than 5,000 women in income-generating activities (cutting and sewing, soap making, baking and literacy), and legal support to defend their rights. Finally, the development of a drinking water source that helps more than 2,500 women avoid water-borne diseases and genital infections.

Marceline managed to present at several conferences at the international and national level to advocate for the situation of women in the DRC, particularly those in South Kivu, which brought daily threats. In January 2017, she received the international Robert Burns Humanitarian Award, awarded by the South Ayrshire Council and Scotland’s Winter Festivals, which recognizes courage, commitment and inspiration in humanitarian action.

On December 10, 2019, the French government through the CNCDH decided to award her the International Human Rights Prize of the French Republic 2019.

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(Music : Kevin MACLEOD)

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