Originally from Uganda, Rhéa Lutala (‘20) was nervous when her family first arrived in Beni in 2016. The schools she attended used English as the primary language of instruction. But she was excited when she heard about Université Chrétienne Bilingue du Congo (UCBC) and decided to enroll in the communications department with a focus in multimedia journalism. Though she had already accomplished some coursework at Livingstone University in Uganda, Rhéa faced challenges when she began at UCBC—adjusting to a new city, studying some courses in French, and beginning a new program—but she persisted and thrived. In part, because she saw something special at UCBC – a community committed to transformation and investing in the future of Congo.
While at UCBC, Rhéa found her internships to be pivotal for her vocational discernment. She reflected that she learned to be a journalist because of her experiences in her internship settings each year. She walked away from her internships with an understanding of how to best work well in groups, adaptability, tolerance, and how to remain focused on the work she was doing. Rhéa utilizes these skills in her current job with Search for Common Ground, an international organization that focuses on ending violent conflict around the world.
One of Rhéa’s fondest memories at UCBC was joining Women’s Voices. Congolese society remains deeply rooted in patriarchy, where women are expected to remain in the home and be submissive. Rhéa notes that some of her own colleagues at work say they would never marry a woman who worked with them or worked in the same organization as them. Not only does UCBC as an institution work to promote women receiving a college education through various scholarships awarded to female students, but Women’s Voices, specifically, affirms women in their identities and education while also working with young men to disrupt the norms. Rhéa notes that the group “reawakens culture, education, and Chrisitan faith” for its members and allows them to know themselves better, dream for their future, make and achieve their goals, and find themselves in Christ. The group empowers women to reach their full potential while highlighting their identities and children of God.
Rhéa believes that the work of Women’s Voices is necessary beyond the halls of UCBC. She notes that on campus, many of the members of Women’s Voices are exemplary students, role models and carry this spirit and aura of excellence into the workplace and within their own families. Rhéa’s message to the women and young girls of Congo:
“Women are also capable of doing something great, so we must stop minimizing ourselves and saying that we must be accompanied by or remain behind men in order to succeed…I have always liked the French saying, ‘l’impossible c’est ne pas feminine’ – the impossible is not feminine.”