Katie Bond and her mother Becky Bond will tell anyone who will listen about the plight of the women of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Katie was reared in Pike County, went to college in California and has been in California for 18 years.
“She used to work at fair trade businesses, anything to do with fair trade,” Becky said. “She went to a lecture about it. She asked the speaker where the greatest need was, and he said the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She made a trip over. It’s the worst place to live if you’re a woman and she saw the need and said she could not come home without doing something.”
The Peace Exchange is a fair trade non-profit organization, based in southern California. Katie Bond began the process of writing grants and she received a grant for treadle sewing machines. She now has two sewing centers that employ 33 women.
“Some of these women walk two hours one way to get to the sewing centers,” Becky said. “They all have been severely and brutally raped, terrible life history stories. She sees that they get to the fabric mills in Africa. They’re known for their wax prints. The women walk to the mills, pick out their fabrics, walk back to the sewing center and begin their work.”
Katie then has their products shipped over, inventory is taken and the money from the sale of the merchandise is paid back to the women immediately so they can buy more fabric and keep working.
“It sends their children to school. They have to pay for their kids to go to school. Sometimes it’s $15 a month per child,” Becky said. “It pays their rent and it’s a way of trying to give them empowerment so they can turn their lives around.”
Becky said one of the women’s children contracted malaria and incurred a $75 hospital bill.
“It was devastating to her,” Becky said. “Another one lost her home due to a fire.”
The women were paid $1 a day for braiding hair and 50 cents a day working in the farm fields.
“So this is amazing to them,” Becky said. “They are the happiest women with so little.”
Katie Bond needs donors and supporters to keep the program sustainable and anyone wanting to help can go to peaceexchange.com, go on the website and click on “donate.”
Becky Bond stands in front of products made by women of the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the Pike County Fair.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.