Guest Post: I’m 9,000 Miles Away From Home!

Francine's family pic

Today’s guest blogger is Francine Nabintu, a McCain Institute Next Generation Leader from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Bonjour! Jambo! Hello!

French, Swahili and English.  Three months ago, I arrived in the United States speaking three languages but overwhelmed by a country so different than my own, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

My name is Francine Nabintu and I’m lucky to be spending the next year at FUTURES, representing the McCain Institute’s Next Generation Leaders Program.  My colleagues here at FUTURES think I’m very brave, and not only because I grew up in the eastern part of the DRC, which was most affected by repeated wars.

They think I’m especially courageous because I brought my five children, ages one to 12, along with me! And I’m grateful that my very supportive husband Christian, a journalist and anti-violence advocate, has taken a leave to join us here as well.

Thirty years ago, the idea of a Congolese woman moving to the United States with her family for a fellowship program would have been an unimaginable dream.

But it was also unimaginable that I would have an opportunity to graduate from secondary school, marry and start a family, then go back to school at Université Chrétienne Bilingue du Congo when I was pregnant with my fourth child. Education opened the doors that have brought me here today and I’m grateful for all the support and encouragement that I received from family and friends.

For the past five years, I have been working with a Congolese organization called HEAL Africa, which is  mainly known for providing holistic assistance to survivors of sexual violence. We are building relationships and connections between communities to combat the pervasiveness of sexual and gender-based violence.

I am proud to have piloted the first-ever intervention program that challenges traditional assumptions about masculinity, and engages men in the effort to end violence against women and girls.

Over the course of the year, I’ll be learning about FUTURES’ comprehensive approach to ending violence—particularly their focus on prevention, advocacy, policy, and programmatic efforts that engage men. I will learn how to engage with decision makers, making them accountable, and ending impunity that prevents us from moving forward.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be embarking on another new adventure: Christmas in America!  I wish you and your families a safe and peaceful holiday, and look forward to writing to you again in 2016.