Bon Pasteur Kolwezi: winner of the Stop Slavery Hero Award!
Province of Eastern Central Africa
In recognition of its significant impact in fighting to eradicate the scourge of modern slavery, Bon Pasteur Kolwezi has won the Stop Slavery Hero Award at a global anti-slavery award ceremony held on Thursday, February 25, 2021.
The Stop Slavery Hero Award is the most recent addition to eight categories of the Stop Slavery Awards presented by the Thomson Reuters Foundation to specifically recognize and celebrate companies and NGOs dedicated to the fight against all forms of modern slavery and human trafficking – whether on the frontline or on a global scale.
Sr. Jane Wainoi Kabui talked about how the award will
“benefit the visibility of Bon Pasteur Kolwezi.”
In accepting the award at the virtual ceremony, Sr. Jane Wainoi Kabui, the program’s director, thanked “all our people at Bon Pasteur Kolwezi behind the journey so far, the Good Shepherd Sisters and Partners in Mission, our project managers and field teams, the child development staff, and our trainers, social workers, nurses and protectors for your tireless efforts.” She also thanked their partners at the Good Shepherd International Foundation for their “unremitting support to our communities and shared commitment to fight modern slavery in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
Having taken on the role of director only last October, during the global pandemic, Sr. Jane and her team have faced significant challenges to continue to meet the targets set for the organization in its 2018-2022 Strategic Plan. Speaking after the ceremony, Sr. Jane spoke about how they have been able to “keep track of the targets mainly because there are systems in place thanks to those who laid the foundations.” These very foundations have their origin in 2012 when the Province of Eastern Central Africa established the non-profit community development program to combat child labor, human rights violations, and modern slavery in the copper and cobalt mining region around the city of Kolwezi in the DRC.
Today, the project works with vulnerable families in eight artisanal cobalt mining communities. It has helped more than 3,000 children quit the mines and attend school, 500 families to secure alternative and sustainable livelihoods, 300 girls and women to gain new skills and make a decent living away from the mines, and educated more than 20,000 people on how to campaign for better working conditions. In September 2019, the project inaugurated the new Bon Pasteur Centre, which comprises 14 newly equipped classrooms to instruct roughly 1,000 children hailing from the surrounding artisanal cobalt mining communities. Demand for this has been so great, said Sr. Jane, that “the biggest challenge has been that the center can only accommodate a given number of children, and so sometimes we have to turn children away.”
Nicodème Kahilu, the project’s monitoring and evaluation manager,
spoke of how they were “truly honored to receive the award.”
The project also works to strengthen cohesion among communities, mining companies, and the government to address the root causes of child labor and slavery and eradicate these from the upstream of the global cobalt-battery supply chain. “Winning this award will help those who continue to be severely exploited working in the mines,” said Sr. Jane, “in the sense that Bon Pasteur Kolwezi now has a platform to be a louder voice for the voiceless, as we speak to a wider and more diverse audience.” She hopes that more people will learn about and “become conscious of the dehumanizing conditions the artisanal miners have to go through.”
As active participants in the global supply chain, Sr. Jane believes we can all play “an important role in saving human life, reducing child labor, and eradicating many of the other social evils that come with the high demand for cobalt and copper.” And she hopes that we begin to make “personal decisions either to buy cobalt and copper products from companies who source the material from clean mining companies or to avoid these products altogether if alternatives exist.” A clear message that Sr. Jane reiterated during the acceptance speech when she invited us all to “come, join us to end slavery.”