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The Maman Shujaa Hero Women of Congo have emerged to put the voices of Congo women on the map, make their dreams and struggles known, and work together across differences to drive international policy. Today the Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the most active regions in our global network, and the women of DRC are a rising force in the world.

Visit our new DRC Region Page to engage with this growing community.

Woman to Watch: Passy Mubalama

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World Pulse correspondent and human rights defender Passy Mubalama speaking to women in her Goma community. Photo courtesy of Passy Mubalama.

Meet Goma's own champion for the rights of women and children.

"This needs to be our first mission – to work hard together to help women in our communities know their rights and claim them."

Passy Mubalama

Pour lire cet article en français, cliquez ici.

Congolese human rights defender and World Pulse Correspondent Passy Mubalama is the eldest of twelve children and the only one of her family to finish high school and college. She grew up witnessing the abuse of women in her family and community and felt powerless to stop it. Despite the prejudice against women who study in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in spite of the difficult conditions in which she lived, she was determined to complete her studies so that she might go on to help women learn and stand up for their rights.

Q&A With Passy Mubalama

Passy Mubalama Passy Mubalama: I am 29 years old and the founder of Action and Development Initiatives to Protect Women and Children (AIDPROFEN Association), a nonprofit organization based in Goma in eastern DRC. With AIDPROFEN Association I campaign to promote Congolese women's rights in the province of North Kivu, where I have been working as a human rights defender for four years.

Since 1994 the DRC has been politically unstable and embroiled in ethnic conflict fueled by several armed rebel groups in the country, some local and some foreign. Since April 2012 clashes between the M23 rebel group and the military, the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC), have rocked North Kivu.

Many war crimes are committed by the rebels, and as the statistics show, the consequences of war have been devastating to the region. Every day in eastern DRC the number of people dying, injured, or displaced increases. North Kivu now has a total 967,050 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Unfortunately the majority of the displaced are women and children living in difficult and dangerous circumstances.

How did you know that advocating for the rights of women and children was what you wanted to do with your life?

As a 10-year-old in 1994, when Rwandan refugees fleeing genocide flooded North Kivu, I witnessed things a child my age could not bear – killings, people starving, domestic violence, as well as many cases of sexual and gender-based violence in my family and community. It was very difficult for me to grow up in such conditions. I felt continually stressed. Still today human rights violations in the DRC are too numerous to count, especially acts of violence against women.

I grew up seeing how women were abused by their husbands but were condemned by customs and traditions to keep silent. It is disturbing to me to find that still today the Congolese community holds a lot of prejudice against women and believes they are weak. Many people in the DRC are still convinced that women cannot occupy decision-making positions like that of national or provincial deputy, school director, or university professor.

In addition to the cultural challenges women face, wars and armed conflicts have continued to destabilize the region and greatly impact women and children.

Displaced women and children live in camps without food, without clothes, and are vulnerable to sexual violence, sexual slavery by armed groups, abduction, murder, torture, and other atrocities. This entire situation shocks me every day. I decided to work hard all my life to see if and how I could do something to change it. I made the choice to advocate for women’s and children’s rights all my life!

What are successes you have witnessed?

The successes are many. Through AIDPROFEN Association I have installed local Women's Committees where women gather and discuss their rights. In these committees, we also talk about how we can contribute to the establishment of peace in eastern DRC. I have also organized many conferences and awareness sessions with young students on the topic of women's rights. We have discussed issues such as women’s financial rights and their right to work. Today more women are informed about their rights and able to monitor and report any violations of them. This is a great success for us. Before, that was impossible. Women were not previously reporting violations against their rights as they were condemned by customs and traditions to keep silent.

By way of example I will share the following story of a woman previously silenced by abuse later empowered by the AIDPROFEN women’s committee to fight for her rights: Esperance* is a mother of five children. For several years she has been subjected to domestic and sexual violence by her husband, but always suffered in silence. Her children also suffered and were kept out of school because her husband did not give her money to support them. . . .

Comments

Y's picture

Hello, EKG. Your article is

Hello, EKG.
Your article is well-written. Do you know if birth control is part of women's education in Passy's agency?

Y

Emily Garcia's picture

Connecting with Passy

Hi Y,

Thank you for your comment. I don't know the answer to your question, but if you would like to connect with Passy Mubalama directly, she is here in the community and one of the Voices of Our Future correspondents this year. Here is a link to her profile: http://worldpulse.com/user/16877.

Warmest wishes,
Emily

Emily Garcia
World Pulse Online Community Associate

Ayunnie's picture

Congrats

Hi Passy,
Keep up the good work

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Monica09's picture

Inspiring

Dear EKG,

Thank you so much for highlighting the story of her work. Her resilience boosts the confidence of many women.

Passy, you are a wonderful soul! You give me courage to overcome the barriers.

Regards,
Monica

Emily Garcia's picture

Thanks for reading, Monica! I

Thanks for reading, Monica! I agree - Passy is a courageous woman whose work is an inspiration.

I just watched your video on the violence many domestic workers in Bangladesh face. Thank you for calling attention to this injustice!

Kind regards,
Emily

Emily Garcia
World Pulse Online Community Associate

Kara-Amena's picture

Great article

Hi Emily,

Thanks for this powerful story about Passy and her work. I just watched her video also. Seeing the IDP camp and the women and children living in those conditions was very eye-opening. Women like Passy who have the strength and courage to make a difference in the face of so many challenges are amazing. It is so hard for me to imagine walking in their shoes. But spreading word of their plight and learning about their efforts helps us all to understand better. It reminds me of the title of Zainab Salbi's book - "If You Knew Me You Would Care." That's what World Pulse does - it helps us to know the people who are suffering so that we can care enough to join their struggle to make things better. I'm glad you helped to spread that message.

Kara

Emily Garcia's picture

Thank you!

Hi Kara,

Thank you for reading and for your kind and thoughtful comments. Yes, what Passy has accomplished helping women and children in eastern DRC is incredible and I agree that it helps enormously to see the human faces behind the stories of both strife and success. It helps us connect on a human level with those who are suffering in our world. I agree with you completely.

And you too are an inspiration! I loved hearing your story at World Pulse LIVE and all that you have been able to accomplish as a listener. The work you do is activism too!

Looking forward to connecting with you again soon!

Warmly,
Emily

Emily Garcia
World Pulse Online Community Associate

emillam's picture

Your video

Passy: You have done such marvelous work and you continue to come up with some of the best ideas possible to help women and families in your war-torn area. I am so grateful that the DR of the Congo has a woman like you to stand up for what is right and use the courage and fortitude that it takes to keep stretching the boundaries for women in the right direction. You are truly a heroine and a real model for others!

Elaine R. Millam

mayele's picture

Congratulation my sister

as a congolese woman i really appreciate what Passy is doing.

Mayele , Maman shujaa and World Pulse volunteer

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