Helena's Story: Balancing Academics and Entrepreneurship

When Helena’s mother first told her that she would someday grow up to become a great woman, she assumed her mother was talking about marriage. In a culture that largely considers a woman’s place to be in the home, it seemed that that was all anyone expected Helena to aspire to.

Nevertheless, Helena seemed to have this way about her—an unquenchable thirst to learn more, do more, be more. As a child, she read any books she could get her hands on, spent her days creating a variety of crafts, and took initiative in caring for her younger brother and cleaning their family’s house.

But in June 2015 when she heard about the opportunity to receive leadership and entrepreneurial training from Congo Leadership Initiative, she knew that this was her chance to become explore the talents and passions that she had always had within her. According to Helena, “It was an answer to my aspirations… After I received my certificate the next year, my parents told me, ‘Helena, you have become the ideal woman! We are proud of you.’"

Today, Helena attends university while also maintaining the small sewing shop that she created using her CLI grant. She hopes to one day expand her business and teach the sewing trade to children across the Congo.

“The training I received at the Leadership Institute has broken all the limits of being underestimated that I faced due to my marginalized position as a women in my country,” she says.