“We Are Congolese”

A local women's fund creates a bridge between international donors and local grassroots movements

When women's funds groups are properly supported, with long-term funding that provides flexibility and stability, they are able to create relationships that will build a movement and will create lasting change.

Katharina Samara-Wickrama, Oak Foundation

A 2012 American Political Science Review study analyzing data over 40 years and across 70 countries revealed that mobilization of women's movements has a stronger correlation to change for women and girls than country wealth, existence of progressive policies, or number of women in parliament. International donors often struggle to fund local women's movements and grassroots organizations. Funding regulations, reporting requirements, and knowledge of local landscapes, among other factors, limit donors' abilities to make grants to small or informal organizations and to individual activists. It also takes time and resources to learn the landscape, find the right grantee(s), and build trust.

Fonds pour les Femmes Congolaises (FFC) was established in 2007 to bridge the gap between international donors and local women's movements in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). FFC—which in French means funds for Congolese women—was the first non-governmental Congolese fund mobilizing financial and technical resources to support grassroots organizations, networks, and groups of women and girls working to promote women's rights. Local funds offer the added advantage of already being a part of the landscape, which provides local insight and pre-existing ties to communities and stakeholders in-country. "We are Congolese; we know the country; we live alongside our beneficiaries, and our staff members are affected by the same conflict and attrocities that have been ongoing in our country," shares FFC fundraising and communications manager Nyota Babunga.

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Meet Julienne Lusenge

Julienne Lusenge

The war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo officially ended in 2002, but violence and conflict continues to be an ongoing reality. High levels of violence against women, and in particular sexual violence, earned the DRC the title 'rape capital of the world'. Julienne Lusenge started documentings acts of violence in 1998 and speaking out publicly condemning them. Julienne saw the need for an organization that responds to all the needs of women affected by this violence. She established Solidarité Féminine pour la Paix et le Développement Intégral (SOFEPADI)—meaning female solidarity for integrated peace and development in French—a coalition of 40 grassroots women's organizations in eastern DRC. SOFEPADI protects and promotes women's rights, and provides direct support to survivors of sexual violence and reintegrates them into communities. SOFEPADI was established to build the capacity of its activists and strengthen the Congolese women's movement. As president of SOFEPADI, Julienne struggled to garner funding and experienced first-hand donors' reluctance to fund grassroots initiatives due to lack of financial and monitoring systems and limited reporting capacity. In response, in November 2007, Julienne established FFC, giving international donors a bridge to fund grassroots initiatives, and a grantee with the ability to meet stringent financial and reporting requirements.

We fight every day. We have no resources but ourselves to support other women.

Julienne Lusenge, Fonds pour les Femmes Congolaises