As a Congolese human rights advocate from South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC), and WITNESS staff member, I traveled to Bukavu, a province in the eastern DRC, to participate at in a historic women-led march where women were demanding peace and justice. I went to support the women who were denouncing the violence against them and the endless conflict and the militarization of the eastern part of the DRC, and to conduct a video advocacy training for women’s rights activists.
About the Historic March
With more than 4,000 in attendance, this was the biggest event of its kind in eastern Congo, and it was an opportunity for the women from war-affected villages to address a massive audience in their own words. The women told accounts of the violence they’re enduring and shared experiences with women from other regions in post conflict or in active conflict situations who face similar violence and discrimination, including Afghanistan, Kenya, Kurdistan, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Haiti, Uganda and Palestine.
At the march, women were discussing peace and demilitarization, violence against women and how rape of women has and continues to be used as a weapon of war to achieve military objectives. Participants also discussed women’s place in the Congolese society, and the advocacy efforts to bring the international community and the Congolese authorities to take concrete steps to stabilize the socio-economic and security of the population. Additionally, the timing was important as the Congo is preparing for its second attempt at democratic elections in November 2011.
Speeches from women’s rights activists and Congolese politicians, including the first lady, were all converging, calling for the violence against women to end, and peace and justice to prevail. The link between militarization and violence was undoubtedly clear; the Congo has more than 10 armed groups and forces, including the massive presence of UN peacekeepers, operating in the eastern part. The consequences of those armed groups and forces results in the utmost violence, and makes the eastern DRC the most dangerous place for women, where the war is primarily on women – read more from Congo Global Action. In addition, the ineffectiveness of legislative decisions and the lack of political will to protect women are heartbreaking.
The Video Advocacy Training
My presence in Bukavu wasn’t only to participate at the March, but to also support women activists from Eastern DRC with effective messaging strategy using video as a strategic tool for women’s rights advocacy. I conducted a training with 13 women’s rights activists from across Eastern DRC.
You can read more about the training in my previous blog post.
The Women produced a 10-minute video (see it below) highlighting issues that women are facing in their communities: Military atrocities (rebel, governmental forces, peacekeepers), discrimination, lack of access to resources (economic, social), political participation and decision making.
Watch their Video
In the video, one of the women describe how the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) from Uganda uses tactics such as kidnapping, torture, displacement, sexual slavery against women from Province Oriental. The video demands regional action to stop the LRA, who’s top commanders face an ICC arrest warrant. Another woman describes how women are struggling to access justice in Kalemie, Province of Katanga, for crimes they endured. However, because the fees are unaffordable, lawyers are very expensive and the process is very slow, it is very difficult for the women to access justice.
The making of this video helped the women to be familiarized with the process of making a video, from collecting footage and filming to editing and distribution. As part of this historic gathering, the video advocates screened their videos at the Women’s Court, a side event to the March that was organized by the Women’s Initiatives, which had over 300 in attendance, including women’s rights activists, church leaders and local officials.
If you would like to help us transcribe this video in English, you can use http://universalsubtitles.org/ . Then share the link with us in the comments.