Congolese women and children bear the brunt of the crippling effects of hundreds of years of colonialism, war, and exploitation. Socio-cultural norms that favor patriarchy exacerbate poverty, domestic abuse, and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Violence against women has sadly increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, limited awareness and adherence to women’s rights and a lack of female representation in the public and professional spheres continue to hold women back in the workplace. Less than 13% of Congo’s parliament seats are held by women.
How can we pursue justice and reconciliation where discrimination has caused broken relationships? How can we stop this cycle of abuse and inequality that continues to push down and back the women of Congo?
On Congo’s Labor Day, Women of Hope (Université Chrétienne Bilingue du Congo/UCBC staff) and Women’s Voices (UCBC students) organized and facilitated a conference and discussions on the role of men in creating equity in the work environment. Over 130 people from UCBC and other local organizations in Beni attended the conference. This training was part of the “Empowering Women Project” (focused on positive masculinity) funded by TearFund and included presentations from UCBC faculty member Sandra Nyandulu, Didier Mupitanjiya from SOFEPADI, a local women-led NGO that promotes and defends the rights of women and girls, and Patience Sinamili from another local NGO, Femme Defenseurs de droit de l’homme (Women’s Human Rights Defenders). The conference was rich with discussion and dialogue about the ways not only women need to promote gender equality, but men as well. At the end, participants committed to promote gender equality together in the workplace, home, and community through appropriate language, holding fast to women’s rights, and acting as “gender champions” for the transformation of others.
As an organization committed to advancing gender equality, we celebrate this important dialogue and the impact it will have on the UCBC and the greater community of Beni. Congo Initiative’s work towards gender equality and defending women’s rights is not a singular event, but an integral process and core part of its identity. When women rise, they draw their communities up to soar with them.
We celebrate UCBC’s women faculty/staff, students, and alumni. Here are a few of the women who have risen and modeled to their peers and others.
Judith is a current student in Economics. She wants to be a model for other women who have the desire to improve their communities through entrepreneurship and agribusiness. “In our country, we neglect the possibilities of agribusiness. Our country and government lack a vision. But there is an opportunity to help with joblessness. If there is a solution – it is to encourage young people to DO something and not wait. I want to be a model and encourage young women to aim high, to chase their dreams, and don’t be afraid to pursue entrepreneurship.”
Landrine (’21) was the president of Women’s Voices and organized workshops on women’s rights and positive masculinity. “We wanted to meet with these people to share our vision…to show men that they are capable of listening to their wives without believing that they will be trampled, starting this practice as youth, for a better future. Women’s Voices realizes that this work is just the beginning and will continue to press on to advocate for safety, respect, and equality for women in eastern Congo.”
Anuarite (’20) is one of few women who pursue an education in Applied Sciences. Yesterday, she encouraged UCBC women to pursue careers and opportunities in technology even in the face of challenges. As we work to promote women in science, Anuarite and others are already breaking the status quo and pursuing careers in computer science and engineering.