The women of Congo continue to amaze me. I met this group of female soldiers while traveling the backroads of the DRC with a Reuters journalist. We had gone to look for troop movements in the area and stopped in the small village of Mushake to check in with the FARDC soldiers posted at this important crossroads. Mushake used to be a CNDP (Nkunda's rebel army) stronghold and was the site of an assassination attempt that kicked off the last great Congolese war.
While speaking with some soldiers, a pickup full of soldiers, Rwandans with FARDC, pulled up, dropping these women to wait for another vehicle. They were tough, smoking cigarettes and carrying AK-47s. I started shooting when I realized they also had small babies on their backs. As I spoke with them, they showed me their babies with pride...
So many questions... What must these children have been through and with an impending war, what will they see? How do these women survive and care for their babies when they are rarely paid and a paltry amount when they are (the last figure I heard was government soldiers were being paid $27/month)?
As I walked away, the woman looked around furtively, then asked under her breath for something some biscuits (cookies) for her baby... I gave her what I had.