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Thursday, 20 August 2015
Meet the nun on a bicycle who is changing the world
A humble Catholic nun on a bicycle is single-handedly changing the lives of former sex slaves and rape survivors in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
You don't need much to change the world - just a bicycle, loaves of bread and a huge smile.
For more than a decade, Catholic nun Sister Angelique Namaika has helped thousands of women and girls who have been kidnapped, raped and kept as sex slaves by the Lords Resistance Army in the north east region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The winner of the UN refugee agency's top humanitarian award is on a two week tour of Australia to thank donors for supporting her healing and rehabilitation work and raise awareness about gender violence.
Between 2009-2014 she helped 2,000 women on her own, with the aid of her trusty bicycle and meagre resources, but last year with UNHCR fundraising she was able to expand her activities and assisted almost 3000 women.
"Very often as a human I am overwhelmed (by the women's stories) but I pray to God to help me to continue," Sister Angelique told a UNHCR lunch in Canberra this week through a French interpreter.
One of the women she helped was just 13-years-old when she was abducted, raped and then gave birth two children while rebels kept her in captivity for five years.
"Very often as a human I am overwhelmed by the women's stories, but I pray to God to help me to continue."
Sister Angelique refuses to allow the women to be passive victims and helps them develop livelihood skills.
Sewing groups, farm training and bakery businesses have given the women a way to earn money and overcome community stigma about rape, she said.
Literacy classes are helping some of the women to get an education to go on to train as teachers, nurses and midwives.