Walking the talk: Stepping up gender equality in Congolese universities

We have brought 30 students from across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) together to learn about new ways to create positive change in their universities and communities.

The students were taking part in a five-day training in Goma that we organised with our partners as part of the Tushiriki wote project, which promotes the social, political and economic status of women at all levels through knowledge and advocacy.

The training was led by representatives from Congo Men’s Network (COMEN), Caucus des Femmes Congolais du Sud-Kivu pour la Paix (Caucus), Afiamama and SOFEPADI, and supported by our Gender consultant Lana Khattab.

All of the students that joined the training run dialogue groups in their universities in DRC that are based in Beni, Bukavu, Goma, Kinshasa and Uvira. These groups have tended to discuss sensitive issues such as gender equality too quickly without allowing time to explore the roots of the problems.

During the training, students worked through a new manual that addresses a range of issues linked to gender including equal participation in society, the role of the media and leadership skills. The manual also analyses different masculinities and femininities and explains what constitutes consent and different forms of violence, including harassment.

From November 2016, 360 students from the 12 dialogue groups across the country will be using this manual, enabling them to discuss the same topics in depth and at the same time.

Unlike usual teaching methods in DRC, the training had a very practical focus, with students taking part in group discussions and role play activities. They debated, defended and changed their opinions on gender equality through interactive games, which they will now use within their own dialogue groups. One particularly heated debate focussed on what aspects of our lives are biologically defined and what are socially constructed.

An exercise called “circles of influence” prompted students to reflect on the crucial role family and friends can play in preventing domestic violence.

The students also discussed their responsibility to establish the future direction of the country and influence their surroundings, including parents and friends. Many of them will be parents in the near future and can pave the way for gender-equal parenting and upbringing. Continuing to capitalise on their potential and the strong motivation clearly on display throughout the training will be vital to bringing about positive change.