Sylvie Lukala has a message for the people of Congo. Well, really for the world.
“I do not want to see them underestimate women. We need to trust women at school or in different environments they work. I want to say to women and girls never to be underestimated in life, because all people have their potential…their qualities, and are able to do something. If not to say a word, maybe to dance, if it is not to dance, maybe to walk well.”
As the new secretary of Women’s Voices, Lukala is passionate about lifting up women and encouraging them to pursue their dreams. And, she has a dream of her own – to one day start a fashion business that provides employment opportunities for women.
“Fashion is a passion for me. Even from a young age, my parents told me I was too into clothing and dress up too much,” she said with a laugh.
Born in Bukavu, her family arrived in Beni because of her father’s work with the international organization, Oxfam. In her family of 11 (6 sisters and 4 brothers), education was always encouraged and prioritized. Though Lukala is not the first to attend a university, she believes UCBC is different and provides a unique opportunity to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve her goals and dreams.
“For my future life I have goals, but before UCBC I did not know how I can make them concrete. But now, I understand that we must not only have dreams, but we must also know how to accomplish them. Once we limit ourselves only to dreaming and not to accomplishing, we risk dreaming forever while not accomplishing anything,” she explained.
Lukala is aware that throughout society in general, but also at other universities, women face an uphill battle when it comes to achieving their dreams. This is why UCBC plays an important role in her life and why the student-led group, Women’s Voices, continues to act as a foundational support.
“Other universities tend to reject a woman’s opinion and underestimate her. You also do not see a lot of women staff or faculty members. But, here at UCBC, this is not the case. UCBC offers a space where women have opportunities to get positions. We can even notice it by seeing women in the offices and in the classroom,” she said.
One of these staff members is UCBC alumna, Adelphine Angemito(13’), now serves as the Human Resource Officer for Congo Initiative. Angemito played a key role in establishing Women’s Voices and continues to mentor student leaders as they continue to promote gender equality. Lukala found her footing through Angemito’s mentorship and the group.
“Mrs. Adelphine Angemito taught us a lot just by the way she carries herself professionally and encourages other women to dream and to go after those dreams. Before being a part of the Women’s Voices group, I did not know that I had leadership qualities in me. Women’s Voices helped me discover who I am, where I belong, and what is possible to achieve as a woman,” Lukala said.
But, Angemito shares her own admiration and appreciation for Lukala.
“Since she arrived at UCBC, she dedicated herself to serving the group and enhancing its communication. She even dreams of starting a Women’s Voices print magazine, radio broadcast, and web presence. She is a great leader who is committed to expanding Women’s Voices presence in the community,” she said.
Following the footsteps of past leaders like Angemito, Lukala finds strength in faith and calls for unity and collaboration when it comes to promoting equality.
“Every woman is called to discover first who she is and what she can do. She can discover her identity in Christ as a model, trusting in herself, and being the one to define her life. For men and women in my family and in the community, I want them to live in unity, and men to accompany and trust women to accomplish something good.”