On March 8th, in Bukavu, women took to the streets to protest on International Women’s Rights Day. The employees of the Panzi Foundation were asked to wear black, the color of mourning, to remind the population that every day, dozens of Congolese women are victims of rape as a weapon of war.
Dr. Denis Mukwege himself spoke on the issue: March 8th is not a day of celebration, but of mourning, because Congolese women are still considered second class individuals.
During this demonstration, women from many associations (Unicef, EPA, Women for Women, …) were demanding their rights and the end of the war, the end of rape, the end of the appropriation of men on their bodies.
Following this march, on March 12, our coordinator Sifa Ntwamwenge organized an interactive playground around women’s rights, in Bunyakiri and Kavumu. The goal of this day was to sensitize the children of Panzi and their mothers on the rights of women, children and young girls.
These workshops on women’s rights revealed the inequalities in the conception of gender among children, but also among adults. Many topics were discussed: the wage gap, the appropriation of women’s bodies by their husbands, the strength of men compared to women, …
The parents of the Panzi children were also able to express their concerns about the rights of the children. By learning about their rights, the parents communicated their fear of not being able to provide for their needs. All of this motivates our team to continue our efforts to sensitize community leaders, religious leaders, teachers and parents on the issue of gender equality.
It is obvious that the customs in the Democratic Republic of Congo are different from ours, that is why we rely on our local team to find the right ways to conduct our prevention campaigns. The goal of our gender prevention sessions is to bring families in which women have an important role together. We want to emphasize the complementarity of women and men, not to deny their differences but to demonstrate the strength behind the union of the genders.
We also remain aware of the seriousness of the situation in eastern DRC, where the prices of basic necessities have more than doubled since last year. The conflict continues and the quality of life is diminishing. This is why we are now more motivated than ever to continue our mission.
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