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Report of the Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo
From the 21st of September to the 1st of October, 2008, the African Women's Development Fund (AWDF) in conjunction with the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), Global Fund for Women and women's right's activists from Guinea, Swaziland and Zimbabwe undertook a mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The aims of the mission were to:
- Show solidarity with Congolese women's rights organisations, gender activists and feminists whilst encouraging them to build strong women's movements
- Obtain a 'first hand' perspective of women's rights challenges in the DRC and to structure programmes to effectively support women's rights work in the country
- Gain a clearer understanding of women's rights challenges particularly in the mining and resource extraction centre.
- Women's rights activists and women's rights organisations in the DRC are working in extremely challenging situations which includes dealing with political instability, extremely high levels of sexual violence/rape and a culture of impunity towards the violation of women's human rights.
- Many women's rights organisations we met have minimal financial resources and face constant challenges around resource mobilisation and the further development of their organisation.
- Congolese culture like many other cultures around the world is patriarchal and does not encourage women's empowerment and participation in decision-making positions in society.
- Sexual violence, low levels of education and women's lack of access to decision making positions in society appear to be amongst the key areas of concern for women right's activists in the DRC.
- The few women in decision making positions e.g. women parliamentarians need support systems and networks that will assist them in working within highly patriarchal structures.
- Special support is needed for women and girls working within the mining sector as they are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
- Survivors of sexual violence and rape need support, access to healthcare and justice for the atrocities they have suffered.
- Women's rights organisations in the DRC are fragmented and need support in building a viable and dynamic movement in the country.