by Michel Ngoy Mulanda
As presented on a panel: “A dialogue among cultures; Iraq for All”
March 3rd, 2008, 1:00-3:00 p.m.
Tillman Chapel, Church Center for the United Nations

We are grateful to the Al Hakim foundation for inviting us to this session of “A Dialogue between cultures: “Iraq for All””. The special invitation to me as one of the panelists to speak on the issue of Women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, marks our strong solidarity with the wrestle for the respect of women’s rights in Iraqi society.

We all know well that violence doesn’t have a specific form in the Congo or in Iraq, but we do agree to call for an end to that form of inhumanity. We hope that great progress will be achieved soon in this area despite reluctance encountered here and there. And we hope that our communities will play a leading role in becoming “the light of the world and the salt of the earth” .

Instability in the DRC grew from the War of Liberation in 1997. From 1998-2003 multiple rebellions from armed groups took place all over the country. During this time, the DRC experienced a high percentage of massive violations against women where there were a massive number of rapes and young people were tortured.

These human rights accusations joined the organization of women rights, peace and development in the DRC and struggled to defend the voice of the voiceless. Otherwise, the social situation of 80% of women in the DRC is deplorable.

The DRC has made efforts to enact laws to protect and promote women’s education, and freedom from poverty, etc. But the opposition remains stiff and takes advantage of poverty. The corruption context is rampant in most of our provinces. With the growth of free primary education in some provinces and realization of the great skills in some women leaders, there is a great tendency to send all children to school irrespective of their gender, even in the case of dwindling family resources. Yet, there is still a lot to be done in the area of poverty elimination through asserting women’s rights to inheritance. The issue being strong tradition whereby women have no rights to inheritance.

Ignorance is prevalent and this ignorance has painful consequences to women in social, psychological and spiritual terms (i.e. women tend to feel worthless, exhibit self pity, feel inferior, fatalistic and dehumanized). Violence also poses an increased risk to women of contracting HIV/AIDS.

The DRC needs:

  • To establish the legal mechanisms for demanding accountability from perpetrators of violence.
  • To punish human rights violations and to identify actors
  • To redress victims of violations.

This country must look at the massive violations of human rights by dealing with three dimensions of the right to redress, namely:

  • Reconciliation = compensation
  • Restitution
  • Rehabilitation
  • The right of victims and society to adequate investigation and punishment of perpetrators with respect to massive past violations of women must be enacted.

Strategic approaches:

  • Build the capacity of individuals, groups, families, institutions, government relevant ministries and communities such that they can help their communities and entourage to cope with the psychological consequences of war, violence against women and other ill treatment
  • Multiply gender training (workshops and seminars) at all levels of our communities where men and women equally participate
  • Set strategies which mark how to involve women in all ministries in order to partake of their leadership.