This is the second post in CLI’s Young Leader Spotlight series, which shares the unique stories of the talented and visionary youth we work with in the Congo. In our first post, we introduced you to 21 year-old Prisca.
Today, we want you to meet Helena.
When Helena’s mother first told her that she would someday grow up to become a great woman, she assumed her mother was talking about marriage. In a culture that largely considers a woman’s place to be in the home, it seemed that that was all anyone expected Helena to aspire to. Nevertheless, Helena seemed to have this way about her—an unquenchable thirst to learn more, do more, be more.
As a child, she took advantage of every learning opportunity she could and spent her days reading any books she could get her hands on. Helena also showed early signs of the creativity and entrepreneurship that she is now known for, and by age 10, she was making pots, clothes, and a variety of other crafts. Around the home, she also took initiative wherever she could, whether in caring for her young brother or in managing the cleaning of their family’s house.
But in June 2015 when she heard about the opportunity to receive leadership and entrepreneurial training from Congo Leadership Initiative, she knew that this was her chance to explore her own unique set of skills and passions. According to Helena, “It was an answer to my aspirations… I wanted to boost the talents that are within me.”
Over the course of the next year, Helena worked tirelessly to become one of the brightest young leaders in the program. Through the small sewing shop that she launched using her CLI grant, she became a leader in her community and injected vital capital into the area’s struggling economy. According to Helena, “After I received my certificate the next year, my parents told me, ‘Helena, you have become the ideal woman! We are proud of you.’”
Today, Helena attends university while also maintaining her sewing shop. She hopes to one day expand her business and teach the sewing trade to children across the Congo. “The training I received at the Leadership Institute has broken all the limits of being underestimated that I faced due to my marginalized position as a women in my country,” she says.