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Improving the life of prisoners

Soap produced by the micro-factory in Kamina’s prison created with the help of UN Volunteers. (UNV, 2013)Soap produced by the micro-factory in Kamina’s prison created with the help of UN Volunteers. (UNV, 2013)
26 August 2013

Kamina, Democratic Republic of the Congo : In July, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme called on all UN Volunteers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to propose small-scale initiatives for the benefit of the local communities. Seven projects were put forward by UN Volunteers, all with the common goal to improve the quality of life of the local communities.

In partnership with the MONUSCO unit that supports the management of prisons, a team of UN Volunteers led by Claire Chantale Woksuu, UNV Logistics Operations Officer in Kamina (Katanga Province) helped create a soap-producing micro-factory in Kamina’s prison.

The idea was simple: the team members contribute a minimum of 100 Congolese Francs a day. Although this is not a lot, every little helps, and all this “little money” added together, you end up with big results. After a month, the group gathered enough money to buy buckets and washing products for the women of the detention centre - a quick answer to an immediate need.

But Claire and her fellow UN Volunteers wanted more than short-term solutions. Most needs at the prison are deep rooted and need a long-lasting solution. With the financial support of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme in DRC, the team of volunteers supported the implementation of an income generating activity to improve the quality of life in the prison.

As Julien Ouédrago explained in a public address during the inauguration ceremony, a soap micro-factory has been created, with three main objectives: prisoners to develop capacities that will help their economic and social reintegration after their time in jail; income generation that, among other things, will allow to make improvements to the prison’s garden; and the improvement of the prisoners' health and hygiene.

The UN Volunteers financed the required materials to start the venture; trained the prisoners on how to produce soap; and advised the steering committee, including the prison’s management staff, local religious leaders, and two prisoners. As the micro-factory becomes self-sufficient, the volunteers will let the committee drive the project independently.

“Our wish,” said Claire to the prisoners, “is that, once the project is on track, it will go on without our support; you are the key elements of this soap factory. You are at the same time the engine, the driver and the beneficiary passenger. If you only act as passengers, the vehicle will stop and you will have so start hitchhiking. If, in the long run, this activity works, it will be your success, not ours.”

UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)