Gathered under the shade of a tree, the notables – all men – of the Bukuyi group in the Bagata territory, about 130 km east of Bandundu city, in the Kwilu province, listen to the speech of their leader, the “Mfumu Nkento” Anoy Ngolor, a woman committed to the fight for gender equality and fight against early marriages in her jurisdiction.
The “Mfumu Nkento” turned towards gender equality in DRC
“Here, many young girls die from complications of childbirth. Their parents are then accused of witchcraft. Yet the truth is that the body of a 13-year-old girl can only withstand with difficulty the demands of pregnancy. I am very sad about it and I have prohibited, with penalty of fines, the early marriages in my jurisdiction,” she drums out.
The “Mfumu Nkento” also banned all sexual relationships with young girls in the village, to prevent them from getting pregnant. She also forced men and women to carry out farm work and domestic work together, and, the peak of modernity, has imposed parity, appointing women as head of locality or as an assistant in all the groups that constitute her territory.
Children Reporters mobilized in favour of the conditions of women and children
Slightly aside, Parfait, a 16- year- old Child Reporter, a high school student in Bagata, is diligently taking pictures of the council of elders. Parfait joined with enthusiasm the Children Reporters program financed by the European Union because he was “rebellious and wished to make known the situation of the children in Bagata”. In his school, children are subjected to aberrant punishments: carrying bricks, cutting wood in the forest, kneeling under the sun for an hour, or doing household chores for their teachers. Moreover, he has started an illustrated report on the subject.
Genève Mfumu, another 17-year-old Child Reporter, also a high school student, accompanies him. She records the remarks made and does not hesitate to ask questions. She seems surprised that a woman can run a locality.
“I am a woman and I run my jurisdiction well. What do women lack to prevent them from managing their localities?”, retorts vigorously the “Mfumu Nkento”. Since I took these series of measures, I noticed that women are more involved in taking local decisions and that the roads that lead to the spring are better maintained now because men are now involved in the work”.
The fight against early marriages is everybody’s responsibility
Genève notes that being surrounded by men at the councils of wise men does not seem to disturb the leader, who has confidence in her authority and competence.
The notables questioned the “Mfumu Nkento” on how to enforce the prohibition of early marriages. These marriages are still numerous in this area that is mainly rural. The leader insists that parents should be made responsible, while she agrees to the opinion of a notable that the churches should relay the message, she rejects another’s proposal that the young girls who become pregnant and accuse their father of incest in order to protect their lovers should be killed.
Progress to be made
For Genève it is a real practical lesson for gender equality, she who confesses that she does not know her rights, both as a child and as a woman, before joining the Children Reporters program.
In May 2016, Geneva and Parfait had already met the leader to make a case against children marriages. They are pleased to see that the prohibition of early marriages with penalties is maintained, although so far, no family has been fined for giving out their daughters in marriage.
The report carried out today will allow them to relay the message of the “Mfumu Nkento” on the radio, on the blog of Ponabana, as well as to their mates.
Reportage photos réalisé par Gwenn Dubouthoumieu (2016)
Translated from French by Ginikachi Obah
Gwenn Dubourthoumieu s’est intéressé à la photographie alors qu’il travaillait en Afrique pour des ONG humanitaires. Professionnel depuis avril 2010, son travail est régulièrement récompensé. Il travaille régulièrement pour UNICEF RDC en tant que consultant photographique.
Gwenn Dubourthoumieu became interested in photography while working in Africa for humanitarian NGOs. Professional since 2010, his work is regularly rewarded. He's a photography consultant for UNICEF DRC.
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