DR Congo: Repairing the scars of conflict
At a women's centre on the outskirts of Bukavu, South Kivu's capital city in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 33 year-old mother of four Janet Mapendo, sits pensively as she learns how to sew clothes.
"I came here to learn tailoring skills so I can raise rent and fees to take my children to school and begin to offer services to the community," she says.
"Staying here also helps me to deal with bitter memories of the past that have refused to go away."
As she limps from one table to another, Mama Solange the coordinator of the centre whispered.
"This woman, pointing at Mapendo, cried every now and then the first day she came in March this year. Although she still cries, she is a lot better."
INFRADE, an ActionAid partner and French acronym meaning, reviving the inner power of a woman, provides skills and confidence to widows and women with disabilities endured from the decade-old conflict in the country.
"We came together to restore our hope as women after we realised, the physical abuse was eating into our hope, confidence and esteem," Mama Solange says.
Responding to the hardships women were facing, many came together in 2005 to help other women escape the conflict - often without their property or husbands.
"We started by contributing a dollar a month to help our wounded friends from the villages," she says.
Janet Mapendo is typical. All her property was taken and her in- laws sold the farm and moved to another town leaving her to take care of her children after her husband was killed by the militias in 2005.
Women pay 4 dollars to join this group, but people like Janet learn for free at this centre using the 16 sewing machines, desks and chairs ActionAid supplied early this year.
Janet can now make and cut designs. She can also speak about her experience, though in drenches of tears, but with hope to overcome fully one time.
"They came at night and forcefully entered our house after we refused to open," she says. "All eight of them, wanted to rape me, one by one as my husband watched. I was two months pregnant."
"When I saw my husband's body drenched in blood I resisted the third soldier from raping me. He shot and blew off my right leg."
When Mapendo came from the hospital a year later and with an artificial leg, she came to Bukavu where the threat of attack by militias was minimal.
As she wades through life's new challenges without a leg, husband and livelihood means, she has realised, it is her heart that needs the greatest healing.
"Once every week we meet with Mama Solange just to discuss the issues we face and how we can live life once again," she says.
"Apart from learning to knit clothes for an income in the future, meeting and talking to each other helps us to heal."