YOUNG REPORTER – On 11 October of every year, the world celebrates the girl child. This year, the International Day of the Girl Child was special because Plan International Canada gave a challenge to Canadian leaders: give up their positions on that day. It was in the context of this challenge that the Canadian Ambassador to the DRC, Her Excellency Ginette Martin, gave me the opportunity to carry out her duties on that day. I am going to tell you the main highlights of the day as well as my impressions.
Meeting those involved in the fight against sexual violence
In the morning of 11 October, the Ambassador came to fetch me at the UNICEF office, and it was on our way that she explained some of the security rules that an ambassador must follow. Wealso talked about the program of the day.
First of all, we went to the river Congo to attend a conference on sexual violence, where I met several ambassadors including those of the US and Great Britain. The UN Women Representative, Ms Awasek, was also present as well as Senator Nkongo Budina Nzau and the Deputy Prime Minister.
At the conference, I retained some important highlights from the speech of Jeanine Mabunda, the personal representative of the Congolese Head of State on sexual violence. The DRC (Kinshasa) was called « the international capital of sexual violence », but in two years, it has succeeded to reduce its sexual violence rate by 50%. Jeanine Mabunda ended by saying that « we no longer want to be victims but fighting survivals ».
The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Sexual Violence, Zainab Bangura, said that the DRC is like a United Nations laboratory where many strategies are tested. Those that succeed here will then be implemented in other countries. She also said that « We have invested a lot in the DRC and today it is the best student of the class ».
Ambassador against early marriage
I then went to meet and discuss with the staff of the Canadian Embassy. It was a very interesting conversation; they are really nice people and make up a big and beautiful family.
I could unfortunately not continue my day with the Ambassador herself as she was summoned by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I therefore accompanied Esperance (official at the Embassy) to a school on the outskirts of Kinshasa, where I was received as the « Ambassador of the Girl Child ». It was a very big honor.
There, I listened to the testimonies of two victims of early marriage. I was surprised by the courage they had to tell their personal stories with such ease. I was particularly touched by Gloria’s testimony. She fell pregnant at 16 with twins and was sent to the family of the young boy who impregnated her. There, she was not well treated. She gave birth by caesarian section and one of the twins unfortunately died. Luckily, she heard of the sensitization campaign against early marriage. That is how she went to see the facilitator of the sensitization campaign and together, they went to ask for the opportunity to talk to her parents. Presently, Gloria has returned to her parents. However, she is still worried about the future of her child as she no longer goes to school. I made a commitment to be the spokesperson of their cause.
A day dedicated to the active participation of the Girl
In her closing statement, the Coordinator of DYNAFEK (Dynamic movement of Kinshasa women) said « together let us mobilize for the cause of the Congolese girl child ».
The day was certainly exhausting, but it was a great adventure and a beautiful experience. Before leaving the Canadian Ambassador, who is a very nice person, I asked her to address a message to you. This is what she said:
« I would like to assure the readers of the commitment of Canada, the Embassy and myself to supporting the efforts to give girls in the DRC and elsewhere in the world all the possible opportunities that are necessary for them to fully blossom and contribute to the socio-economic and political development of the DRC. Canada is convinced that without the participation of women and the girl child in all spheres of activities, the country will not attain its full potential ».
More info about gender protection
Translated from French by Felix Awung
Photos : UNICEF DRC 2016 Serge Wingi
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