SHONA - Crafts from Democratic Republic of Congo
Dawn Hurley is an American who has been living in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the past 2 years.
A year and a half ago, Dawn started a small sewing group despite the fact that she knew nothing about sewing. She was looking for something tangible to empower a few people to better their lives. That group has become SHONA (meaning: to sew in Swahili), a small group of physically handicapped women who sew.
They sell their products through the SHONA website and through ebay, but the group is about more than just sewing. It is about empowerment. The women are learning to organize and lead the group themselves, they are learning to read and write, play sports and live on their own. They work as a group and live as a group, an incredible example unity and interdependence. While at the same time, they offer an incredible example of empowerment and independence. In Congo, handicapped people are expected to beg in the streets. Handicapped women are expected to be particularly dependent as they are often not sent to school, and are assumed to be unable to marry. The women of Shona are now earning the money to provide for themselves, and are beginning to consider the ways they can help provide for others as well. This is the goal of SHONA. In the midst of a culture that teaches dependence on foreign aid, the women of SHONA are independent; in the midst of a culture that teaches “service to self”, the women of SHONA are preparing to serve others.
SHONA is a small grass roots organization dedicated to empowering handicapped people in Congo, primarily women. They have no outside funding and no paid staff.