YOUNG REPORTER – Parents are obligated to protect their children. Yet, many of them are irresponsible and abandon their wives and children. What can we make of this situation? The Young Reporters of Ituri left to investigate the situation. I present to you a story of a woman who is fighting alone for the support and wellbeing of her children.
Meeting Ivonne, single mother in DRC
With a view to develop better understanding of the children residing in the outskirts of the city of Bunia; Ephraïm, Ruth, Daniela and Andry, the Child Reporters of the Province of Itrui, left on a reporting trip accompanied by Eli (Point Focal Child Reporters of Odh/Ituri) and myself.
During the trip, we made an encounter with an exceptional woman: Ivonne. She is forty years old, and a mother of eight children, three were under five years of age. She is very determined to support the needs of her children.
A mother concerned for the health of her children
“My children, just like any others, have the rights to lead a life in good health. However, in order to reach that level, they must eat a balanced diet, study, play, etc. That is why I do all that I can to respect that. Unfortunately, I am limited to what I can do alone, and have difficulty getting there.”
It is not by mere coincidence that Ivonne directly initiated the conversation regarding the rights to living a healthy life. “When the father is not involved in taking care of the children, the children have difficulty in finding food to eat, which can trigger malnutrition among them.” On average, Ivonne’s children only eat one meal per day. The eight children of the family are small due to the insufficient amount of food provided on a daily basis.
A wife abandoned by her spouse
We have thought that Ivonne was a widow, but that was not true. “In a few days, it will be 12 months since my husband has left me, as well as my children,
for another woman. From then, he no longer provides care for them. Supporting the needs of eight children is a daily struggle that is not easy to overcome.”
Her life is not easy. Just like thousands of Congolese women, Ivonne was not acknowledged by the Civil state to obtain her marriage certificate. This is a real problem in this country.
Education: hope for the future
The duties of parents are to raise children and to provide education for them. “The parents need to respect the rights of all children. They need love and protection to thrive. All parents must take on the needs of children and actively participate in their education.”
Having access to education remains far from being a reality for Ivonne’s children: “Only one of my eight children attends school. The others had to give up their education due to a lack of resources at home. One out of eight children, this number does not represent anything. However for me, it is better than nothing. By myself, I cannot manage the growing fees for food and school, and medical bills…”
Regardless of multiple difficulties, Ivonne is proud and takes comfort in the thought of all she has done for her children.
“I cultivate the land and sold juice. Even if this does not cover the entirety of the family responsibilities, I am nevertheless very proud to be the woman who fights for the lives of her children. There are women who abandon their own children in the streets. I do my very best to support the needs of my children. One day, they will eventually grow more and God will help them to continue with their education. Why not become important societal figures in the future? I truly believe that they can accomplish it.”
Article 18 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child claims that the two parents have the joint primary responsibility for raising a child. According to Ivonne, the fathers should no longer abandon their families, as raising a child falls within their responsibilities as well: “The children are a blessing from the Almighty; one day they will help the entire nation. The fathers need to assume their responsibilities.”
An unfortunate situation that is all too common
Ivonne pleads to all women who are in the same situation to not give up, but to stay courageous and to always provide support for their children, as they are very precious gifts.
Ivonne is, unfortunately, no the only one caught in this situation. In Africa, the family responsibilities fall primarily on the father figure of the family. However, many fathers abandon their wives and children, leading to a rising number of children on the streets. Therefore, family planning is another factor that is very important.
Parents, raising children is a joint responsibility!
Translated from French by Erica Shin