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Vijaya Thakur

Resolve Network’s approach to poverty alleviation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is broad-sweeping, and grassroots oriented, giving women the resources and confidence they need to transform their own communities.

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Vijaya Thakur
“We know that peace is possible, but we know that business as usual isn't going to get us there.”

​Vijaya Thakur spent the most of the last decade working on peacebuilding and conflict resolution with NGOs looking to change American foreign policy. “As I was doing impact studies of the bills we'd passed, I realized that none of my victories on the Hill or in New York were reaching the people most affected by conflict. In fact, their lives were getting worse.” Seeing the disconnect between the bills being passed and the reality on the ground, Vijaya reevaluated her position. She turned her back on the top-down approach and gave a try at bottom-up, launching the Resolve Network shortly thereafter.

Resolve Network provides loans for women setting up small businesses in areas damaged by conflict.  Beginning with fifty women in the Congo, by the end of its first year the organization had helped 500 individuals to make it out of poverty. Resolve Network’s strategy evolved based on one key insight: listening to the needs of Congolese women makes them more likely to participate in programs. The organization starts by providing small, $40 loans to female entrepreneurs to help them get on their feet. In the next phases, these women become community leaders and work with Resolve Network to rebuild their communities, gaining access to basics like safe-drinking water and latrines.

“Less than 2% of peacebuilding budgets are spent on grassroots measures,” Vijaya explains. “We need to put our money where our mouths are.” And when she does, the results are self-evident. Vijaya tells the story of a brickmaker who received a loan from the Resolve Network. When asked how she defined success she responded, “I know I’ve succeeded when I hear my son speak in the future tense.” A former child soldier, the brickmaker’s son now goes to school, makes plans, and speaks of a hopeful future. $40 later: “My son now wants to hold a pencil instead of a gun.”

Thakur is currently raising funds to spend the next year in the Congo, hoping to commit her full efforts to being on the ground. “We all want to see a more connected world, and we know that peace is possible, but we know that business as usual isn't going to get us there," she says. "Here's a solution that we know works, and the best part is, you don't have to wait for someone else to step up and do the right thing, you don't have to wait for your government or the UN to step up, you don't have to wait for rebel militias to just put down their arms. You can be the difference.”