Promoting women’s empowerment in DRC

Christine"It is extraordinary for me,” said Christine Béatrice Nimbona (pictured). “I don’t feel discriminated against.”

Christine and her parents are from Burundi, which could mean her being considered an outsider in her native town of Swima in South Kivu province, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). But that is not the case. “People here listen to me,” she says. “They participate [in the dialogue group]; they trust me.”

International Alert has been implementing a project seeking to promote women’s participation in decision-making in DRC. Through community activities, cross-border exchanges and trainings, the project team has succeeded in empowering women to be successful leaders in their local communities.

Christine has been the president of a dialogue group created by Alert since 2013. She is also actively involved in raising awareness among both men and women of the need for women to participate in decision-making. “I am surprised that more and more women and men come to me for advice or to ask me to mediate household conflicts,” she says. “Even the traditional local leaders listen to me and collaborate with our dialogue groups. Before the dialogue group activities, this could not have been possible here.”

In the village of Swima, examples of women recently elected or appointed by local authorities reflect the changes in attitudes of the community regarding the role of women. In November 2013, for instance, Hawa Jules, a Muslim woman and counsellor of the dialogue group of Makabola, was appointed the ‘Secretary of all Muslim women’, covering the area of Makobola to Baraka. Hawa said:

“Thanks to the regular exchanges, the group is changing attitudes towards women here. Due to traditions and religious practices and beliefs, women could not access any decision-making positions. Women were considered incapable of doing anything, incapable of organising, of managing … After participating in the dialogue group, we [women] are determined to participate in decision-making and we’re mobilising ourselves. I and some other women have started to access different decision-making positions, which were previously inaccessible to women. For instance, here in our village, we now have two female judges, a female deputy village chief, the president and secretary of Muslim women from Makobola up to Baraka, two women heads of avenue, a woman secretary of the agricultural cooperative, as well as a woman president of the central market in Swima.”

Last year, Alert supported 83,073 women like Christine and Hawa through dialogue, training, advocacy, accompaniment and research activities. They are just two of many examples showing that Alert’s gender-relational approach – which takes into account the broad spectrum of men, women and members of sexual and gender minorities, as well as a deeper analysis of intersecting societal markers such as age and social class – can change the attitudes of both men and women, and influence peace possibilities at a local level. In 2014, 59% of our projects contributed to changed knowledge and attitudes in such ways.

Testimonies like those of Christine and Hawa collected every day by our teams illustrate how our projects can translate into social transformation and change lives.

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