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AN EXHIBITION FEATURING PHOTOGRAPHS BY LYNSEY ADDARIO, MARCUS BLEASDALE, RON HAVIV, AND JAMES NACHTWEY

Congo Women - essays

AUDIO AND WRITTEN ESSAYS

Physical and Psychological Impact of Rape
Judicial Response to Sexual Violence
Economic Conditions and Women
The Culture of Women
Military and Political History
Sexual Violence Is Not Inevitable

THE CULTURE of WOMEN

In the DRC women are largely responsible for agricultural production and completely responsible for all domestic work – including water fetching, firewood gathering, food processing and preparation. In spite of the critical role they play in sustaining their communities, women are often treated as inferior and are largely excluded from community decision-making. These perceptions have perpetuated a cycle of economic, social, and political exclusion of women from decision-making positions and an ability to protect their basic needs.

However, amid the horrors of war, rape, disease, and displacement that have ravaged the country for more than a decade, women are seeking to rebuild their lives and now have a range of opportunities for support. The new constitution, adopted in 2005, commits itself to improving the representation of women in all levels of government and while proportionally underrepresented, there are female elected officials. In addition, international initiatives to build economic capacity amongst women have been ongoing since the first free elections in 2006 and organizations have begun to create safe spaces for women to come together to identify and discuss obstacles to their becoming equal, active members of society. Local women’s groups have started mediation programs and public awareness campaigns urging communities to embrace rather than shun rape survivors. Elderly women are performing traditional rites to help rape victims cope with trauma and to encourage family members to accept them. Some fistula victims are pooling their funds to help one another undergo reparative surgery and  “listening centers” allow women to meet others who have endured similar traumas. Women’s organizations are fanning out into the countryside to educate women and their husbands about women’s rights, bringing opportunities for change and a new direction.

Christine Karumba, Country Director for Women for Women International-DRC

Karumba has implemented a program of direct financial assistance, rights education, vocational skills training, and income-generating opportunities for socially excluded women.

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