Hello! Hope everyone had a happy Homecoming! This is day two of Congo week, and we hope to meet you all at our “Mega-bites” baked goods stand, outside of the Queen's Centre on Earl Street today from 10-4!
If you've been reading our previous blog entries you are aware of the many conflicts in the DRC. While these issues are severely important to explore and understand it is also important to know the effects they has on a particularly vulnerable group in the DRC—women. Women in the Congo sometimes underrepresented in their communities and have limited access to property, education and reproductive medical health care.
The Women of Congo face an array of social issues that have consequently lead to a compromise of their stability and safety. However, one of the most common issues the women face is with sexual violence. It is the lowest form of terrorization and abuse that has been used in during times of conflict, and astonishingly it has not been resolved.
Although attention has gradually increased to this site of abuse, not much progress has been initiated. Much of the sexual violence that occurs against women in the DRC are from armed rebel groups; however, this type of abuse is also been occurring among the community members where women live.
This systematic abuse against women can be found in the inequality and disenfranchisement of women in the DRC. Sexual violence is a problem that stems from the lack of rights and freedoms fro women. Thus it is not just a problem of that can be isolated to a central location but viewed as coming from multiple and intersecting areas in the DRC, such as: political warfare and violence, the justice system, and the culture of abuse that has been appropriated. . This list is not exhaustive by any means, however they cover the major institutions that perpetuate this abuse.
These attacks on women are acts of gender-based violence. It’s a complex topic because it extends beyond peace and into the socio-cultural reproductions within the DRC. Sexual violence is used as a form of power. It is a tool to terrorize and instill fear into the population, and the fact that it is being used not only by criminals of the justice society but also by people in authority positions (police officers, civilians) creates harsher barriers for the women. Moreover, women who become victims to sexual violence are shunned or stigmatized and consequently can lose economic stability in their household.
Violence against women is an important and concerning issue that needs to be regularly addressed. Women of the Congo need to be heard on a public platform both nationally and internationally. The culture of violence that surrounds the Congo is not just about peace agreements, but it is also about revisiting legislation that protects and represents women of the Congo. If you’re interested in why it is we at the Nyantende Foundation believes education is a major factor to dismantling issues such as these, check out our next blog post tomorrow, titled “Education and the Congo…What do we have to do with it?”
-Heather and Maggie