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A Proud baker in the Congolese city of Masi Manimba
A Proud baker in the Congolese city of Masi Manimba
Jacques Kikuni Kokonyange

BENI - Gisèle Masika, a young divorced woman from this Congolese city, says she wants nothing of her aunt's life as a housewife. "My aunt can't do anything, her husband takes care of everything, and he has no consideration for her," she says.

Like other women in Beni, in northeastern Congo, Masika decided to learn a trade -- making braziers -- and is now doing as well as her male colleagues. Some of these women have even opened their own workshops, and employ male workers.

Thanks to their jobs, these women are on the road to self-sufficiency. They can cover basic expenses such as rent, school fees, healthcare, food ... without any help from anyone else.

Mireille Kavira is a good example. This 35-year old mother of three works at the "Super Entretien" refrigerator repair workshop downtown. Thanks to this job, her children now attend a prestigious private school where most pupils are children of businessmen and local administration executives.

In the Mupanda neighborhood, at the "Dieu Merci" ("Thank God") garage, three women are repairing cars. They do the same work as their male colleagues, lying down underneath the vehicles, yanking out parts, replacing hubcaps. Their jobs have made them the backbone of their families.

Madeleine Mwayuma is already proud of her toolbox, pass key, a welding machine and electrical generator -- and now is about to open her own garage. "I realized that in life, you have to work hard and be independent," she says.

Madeleine's colleague, Pauline Mwatatu, an expert at fixing gas pumps, says that she is no longer considering marriage. She is against a union where men – once married – expect their wives to stay at home. She wants the marriage laws to be revised. According to Congolese Family Law, men are considered as the head of the household. This leads some men to believe they are allowed to humiliate and dominate their wives.

The shame of being single

In Congo, single women – even when they are rich – are often the victims of scorn and disregard, and criticized by their families and friends. But thanks to this new generation of working women, single and proud, things are starting to change.

These working women often excel in their trade. Most repairmen and tailors don’t have a great reputation in Beni – respecting deadlines is not their forte. But women, on the other hand, are great at finishing tasks on time. In their workshops, it is all about being integrity and dignity; they are fighting hard to break down stereotypes. A customs agent met in a sewing workshop near Beni's central market explains: "I nearly got arrested because I wanted to beat up the tailor who had promised he would sew me a jacket in time for my cousin's wedding. He had not even started making it. I told myself I would never trust a tailor again. But then women came along. They respect deadlines and work honestly."

Inspired by these powerful models, many women – including young singles and students – are no longer ashamed of living alone. Their uncles and brothers now understand that they can have whatever life they want without getting married. "Rather than living with an irresponsible man, it is better for my sister to live by herself," says local economic actor Matthieu Mashahuri.

Sociologist Make Mahamba says he can see the evolution in Congolese society. "It is very hard today to try and force a woman to marry a man she did not chose. In the past, a young woman could not go against her family."

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Geopolitics

One By One, The Former Soviet Republics Are Abandoning Putin

From Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Tajikistan, countries in Russia's orbit have refused to help him turn the tide in the Ukraine war. All (maybe even Belarus?) is coming to understand that his next step would be a complete restoration of the Soviet empire.

Leaders of Armenia, Russia, Tajikistan, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan attend a summit marking the 30th anniversary of signing the Collective Security Treaty in Moscow on May 16.

Oleksandr Demchenko

-Analysis-

KYIV — Virtually all of Vladimir Putin's last remaining partner countries in the region are gone from his grip. Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan have refused to help him turn the tide in the Ukraine war, because they've all come to understand that his next step would be a complete restoration of the empire, where their own sovereignty is lost.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Before zooming in on the current state of relations in the region, and what it means for Ukraine's destiny, it's worth briefly reviewing the last 30 years of post-Soviet history.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) was first created in 1992 by the Kremlin to keep former republics from fully seceding from the former Soviet sphere of influence. The plan was simple: to destroy the local Communist elite, to replace them with "their" people in the former colonies, and then return these territories — never truly considered as independent states by any Russian leadership — into its orbit.

In a word - to restore the USSR.

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