Building peace from the bottom up in DRC: Joëlle’s story

“It was in my capacity as Secretary of the Union des Femmes pour la Non Marginalisation (Union of Women for Non-Marginalisation – UFENM) that I was chosen”, says Joëlle, a young woman from a village in eastern Democratic of Congo (DRC), where disputes can often turn violent.

International Alert are identifying and supporting local people like Joëlle to address what is driving this conflict in their communities as part of our Pamoja kwa amani (All together for peace) project.

Through training Joëlle on issues such as gender equality and developing her communication and advocacy skills, she has become an influential champion for peace for her community.

Previously at UFENM, we were unable to conduct advocacy activities because we feared being arrested by authorities. With the various trainings received we learned that good advocacy is not a struggle against the authorities but an opportunity for discussion and dialogue.

We learned how to create clear and precise messages that incorporate concrete arguments based on national and international laws to convince leaders to change things.

Joelle is helping to raise issues like the marginalisation of women and corruption in wider discussions between civil society and the government in Kinshasa about the peace process in the DRC, enabling communities to have their say on the matters that affect them.

We initiated an advocacy action against the Head of the Congolese National Police in Nyabibwe, who had been taking exorbitant fines, often exceeding those provided for by law, from people arrested for crimes or misdemeanours.

Together with members of the civil society, local leaders and other ‘peace actors’ from the village, we put together a protest letter with a clear message to the authorities, exposing the problems with the local police.

As a result, a new police commander has been put in place who has changed the way the force works and interacts with the population which in turn is helping improve relations between the police and community.

Through being selected as one of our ‘peace actors’, Joëlle has become more aware of what triggers conflict in her community and how she can lead the way in building peace from the bottom up.

She is now more confident about highlighting contentious issues with local authorities and decision-makers to ensure that change really does happen – whether it be stopping arbitrary arrests and illegal taxes to getting women’s inheritance rights recognised.

And she feels more training would help inspire even greater change across communities in eastern DRC.

We would like International Alert to continue training us especially in areas such as the constitution, and family law.

Find out more about the Pamoja kwa Amani project.