This story is part of World Pulse’s Democratic Republic of Congo Regional Focus Campaign to End Violence Against Women. These testimonies, along with hundreds of others, were delivered to the 2013 African Union Summit.
World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
Listening to the Voices of Congo’s Women
A Voice for Women’s Political Leadership
I am a Congolese widow and mother of four boys living in Eastern DRC. I am a fierce advocate for women’s rights in my country, and I am particularly passionate about strengthening women’s leadership so that we might enter politics.
In the legislative elections of November 2011, we saw an awakening of female consciousness, with many women running for office alongside their male counterparts. But barriers exist that make it difficult for women to be taken seriously in their efforts to lead.
Poverty is at the heart of this issue. Women in my community are disproportionately strained when it comes to economics, and this means that female candidates are unable to publicize their political efforts. Often, these women can’t afford transport fares to meet voters, nor can they produce campaign materials to publicize their cause. Without campaign materials, it is difficult to convince voters to vote for a candidate, especially if this candidate is female, given the inequality that exists between the sexes.
Education is also at the heart of this issue. In our country, numerous families are unable to send their children to school due to strained socioeconomic conditions. Girls make up the majority of this uneducated group. Many children drop out of school before finishing the first grade due to the aforementioned poverty.
In the 2011 elections, these factors conspired against courageous women politicians and led to the ruin of all their efforts. But we will not be discouraged! We continue to run as candidates in the provincial, municipal, and local elections.
We must do everything in our power to help women enter into the political sphere. We need financial backing; we need a shift in the culture so that women may be seen as equals; and we need solidarity among all women to support those who strive to enter leadership positions. Only then will we see the peaceful Congo we dream about.
A Voice Against Domestic Violence
Like many in DRC, I grew up in a quarrelsome, violent family.
My father loved to fight. He would fight in the district where he worked, and he would beat my mother and us children. I recall one very bad night when he came home very drunk. He beat me until I was knocked out. The injuries were so bad that I spent time in hospital. After two days, I finally regained consciousness, and found my father in front of me crying, begging for my forgiveness. He promised he would never do it again. We made peace and went home where he refused to drink. From that day on my father never drank again and the violence was reduced in my home. What a miracle!
But many in DRC are not so lucky. Ongoing conflict, lack of resources, and customs that seek to neglect women, make life very difficult here.
Domestic violence like what I experienced in my own home is widespread. I recall the horrible story of the fate of a child in my community. When a mother went to get water—which is an arduous task here in DRC—the father raped his 9-month-old child and then ran away. The mother returned to find her child crying and full of blood.
One day I sent my 17-year-old girl to fetch water 5km away. I told her to take the short path, but there she met three men who asked to follow her because they were also seeking water. But these were not good men, and they used this opportunity to rape her. She fell unconscious and was found the next morning by passersby who took her to the hospital. Later she found out she was pregnant and all her hopes fell away.
It pains my heart to see how women are continually raped from day to day—even as infants. I ask that you spread awareness of these atrocities in order to end these abuses against the Congolese women.
I also believe that access to education for girls, so that they should know their rights, would be a great advantage for my country. Girls are not allowed to go into higher education; instead, they are prepared for their wedding. If girls were allowed to go to school, their leadership could change things for DRC.
You will often hear “Mwasi atonga ka mboka te,” meaning a woman can never build a country, but I know otherwise. I believe that we, as women, can bring about great change in DRC; we have already begun.