This is a second post in a series I’m doing from the World March of Women in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. For some more background to my trip and the training I conducted last week please watch this short video on the WITNESS website and read my previous blog post.
The World March of Women, kicked-off on Wednesday October 13 with thousands of women showing up from various corners of the Eastern DRC and around the world: from Kurdistan, Norway, Belgium, France, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Spain, Palestine, Canada, US, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Mali, Afghanistan, Rwanda, etc.
This was the first time ever that the South Kivu province (in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo) has hosted several delegations at one time and I can only describe it as a well-organized mess. The lack of coordination became really apparent when the massive crowd began to pack the Hall of Athenee d’Ibanda, a school complex built during Belgian colonial period in the 1940s, to register. While national delegations from the DRC had booths for registration, international delegations could not identify theirs. No medical installations (luckily none got sick or needed emergency care), no restaurant or even a place to find drinking water, no information desk…we had no idea who was control.
As someone who went to University in Bukavu in the midst of war and the genocide in Rwanda, I was not surprised by the chaos and the lack of coordination. I was expecting to see some kind of change since there’s now a stable government which was elected in 2006. I was sad to see that not much had changed. After several back and forths in a very muddy city (it had started to rain), I got my registration in a way that was unexpected. I was helped by a good Samaritan, a woman whose brother was a college mate of mine in Bukavu.
It was very interesting to see how people interpreted and welcomed the March. It was not only because of what the March itself meant, but also because it offered an opportunity for government officials to make repairs and fix some basic infrastructure that people have the right to enjoy. For instance, the main street towards the venue was being paved. There were rumors that Michelle Obama and Madam Sarkozy were coming. (I don’t know where they got that information.) I wished they could come, because for the first time in 15-20 years, the school complex got electricity, and in the city people were happy because at the electricity was a bit more stable than usual. Residents were surprised and wished the march would continue for a month!
In the evening, the opening ceremony started. The DRC’s first lady, Olive Lembe Kabila, and Prime Minister’s wife delivered speeches. Beside them, the Minister of Gender and Family, and the governor of South Kivu Province and other officials presided. The first lady talked about the importance of women in our community and family, the lack of respect, honor and recognition that makes women vulnerable even in their own homes. The governor welcomed the participants, and reiterated the need for an effective collaboration between civil society and the government.
I’m being told that the generator is about to be shut down, so I’ll hope to post again tomorrow and when I’m back in New York I’ll be posting and sharing some video from the training and from the March.