For generations, farmers on Idjwi have largely depended on the coffee they grow. But before Rebuild Women’s Hope (RWH) was founded they had no way of processing their coffee to a high standard and nowhere to sell it apart from to smugglers, who took it across the lake to nearby Rwanda.
While women in Congo do much of the labor involved in growing and harvesting coffee on their family farms, traditionally it is their husbands who are in charge when it comes to selling the produce and making business decisions. The contribution of women is largely not recognized in society and women are widely seen as being incapable of dignified work that contributes to the needs of their families and communities.
In 2013, Marcelline Budza founded RWH. Inspired by her own mother’s resilience while bringing up her four daughters alone, she set out to find practical ways to transform the lives of Congolese women in rural communities.
At RWH, women are at the center of decision-making. We work to create a spirit of entrepreneurship and self-management among our women members in order to raise the standard of living in our communities. We believe that a community where women are empowered is a thriving community.
Our coffee cooperative is located on Idjwi Island in Lake Kivu, in the very east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as shown on the map to the left.
Ijdwu Island offers ideal coffee growing conditions, enabling us to produce the very highest quality coffee. Find out more about our coffee.
HOW WE WORK
Rebuild Women's Hope began by working to improve the quality of coffee on Idjwi, including by building two modern coffee washing stations on the southern shores of the island at Boza in 2016, with a donation from Strauss Coffee, and Hala in 2017, with a loan from Coffee Lac. In 2017, we entered our coffee in the annual Saveur de Kivu quality competition organised with a jury of international coffee buyers and cuppers, headed by Beth Ann Caspersen of Equal Exchange in Boston, USA. Our coffee took first prize!
Alongside developing the capacity to produce the finest Congolese Arabica coffee, RWH also started activities to promote our members’ social and economic wellbeing, including training in literacy and numeracy, and in bread making and market gardening.
2020 saw further milestones, with the opening of RWH’s Maternity and Paediatric Medical Center, the first on Idjwi island, funded by our roaster customer Mozzo Coffee, and the construction of our Women’s Center which will provide a base for future community work.
Today our Specialty Fully Washed and Natural coffees are exported to the USA, UK, France, The Netherlands and Japan. Looking ahead, we are planning to build two further Coffee Washing Stations in 2021, and to have our coffees certified Fairtrade and Organic in time for the 2022 harvest.
Marcelline's tireless pursuit of human rights for the women of Idjwi Island has been recognised by numerous prestigious international awards since RWH was founded in 2013.
Alongside traditional attitudes which marginalise them, women in eastern Congo have suffered high levels of sexual violence over the course of multiple ongoing conflicts in a country which has been described as the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman.
Rebuild Women’s Hope’s vision is to place women at the center of the integrated development of their community. We believe that building the hope of women is building the hope of the entire nation.
The objectives of Rebuild Women's Hope can be summarised as follows:
To highlight the efforts and work of women in order to empower them to successfully overcome the difficulties they face in life.
To create a spirit of entrepreneurship and autonomy in women
To help women to know their rights and responsibilities in their community
To make agriculture a springboard for the self-empowerment of women and their households
As well as supporting our members to produce coffee of the highest quality, we run a number of social programs to further our objectives.
Rebuild Women’s Hope began as an all women organisation. But we came to realise that in order for women to thrive, mutual support and co-operation with the men in the community is important, and indeed many men were keen to join. So today we are working towards having equal representation of women and men. Currently we have a total of 3,057 members, of whom 2,232 are women and 825 are men.
Marcelline Budza grew up in Bukavu on the south shore of Lake Kivu during one of the most violent periods in the history of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The youngest of four daughters, her father abandoned the family when she was three. Inspired by her mother’s bravery in raising her and her sisters and sending them to school using the money she earned from selling coffee and pineapples, Marcelline was motivated from a young age to do something to change the situation for women and girls in eastern DRC. After studying agronomy at the Evangelical University in Africa, Marcelline founded Rebuild Women’s Hope in 2013. Today, Marcelline is the president of the cooperative.
Marcelline's tireless pursuit of human rights for the women of Idjwi Island through Rebuild Women's Hope has been recognised by numerous prestigious international awards.
Robert Burns Humanitarian Award
Marcelline was awarded the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award, which is supported by South Ayrshire Council and Scotland’s Winter Festivals, in January 2017.
University of Oslo Human Rights Award
Marcelline was awarded the University of Oslo Human Rights Award in December 2020.