By Nita Evele, Congo Global Action
Thousands of Congolese women marched on the street of Bukavu, the capital city of the province of South Kivu on October 17, 2010 as part of the third World March of Women (WMW) to show their commitment to peace and security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Delegations of women from Africa, Europe, Middle East, North, South and Central America gathered in Bukavu to draw the world’s attention to the need to end the violence against women, promote and recognize women’s place and participation in rebuilding the DRC.
This year they dedicated a memorial monument to fourteen women and one man who were buried alive in Mwenga, a territory situated about 90 miles from Bukavu, during the capture of that town by the rebel group RCD-Goma in 1999. Muzzled, traumatized and raped, nobody in Mwenga could lift a finger to point to the assailants. But from now on this monument will tell their story to residents and guests of in the town of Bukavu.
The march of women in Bukavu was scheduled in the light of the 10th anniversary of the UN Resolution 1325 which was on October 28th. This resolution calls for protection of women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse in situations of armed conflict.
Building on the ideas of UN resolution 1325, in 2008, the DRC parliament passed an amendment to the constitution ensuring the equal participation of women in the national, provincial and local government (Article 14). However, two years later we see that only 10.9% of women are part of the executive leadership and the number continues to decrease. In provincial leadership, there is not a single woman governor and in some provincial parliaments, such as Maniema, there is not even one woman member. Similarly in the judiciary, the number of women judges or magistrates is ridiculously low. This fact not only violates the constitutional principal of parity between men and women but also handicaps the fight against impunity on issues of rape and other gender based violence.
Letting man settle issues affecting women without them must end. An informal survey by Heal Africa conducted in Maniema province revealed that the majority of the population in DRC no longer remembers having rights. According to the survey women in particular couldn’t list one right that they were aware of. This lack of knowledge of the law of parity and the law against sexual violence is concerning.