“At school, we learn how to be good citizens. A good citizen is someone who can respect both girls and boys; and together we strive to be good citizens.” To reduce gender violence,the children from a gender equality club in Bagata, 600 km East of Kinshasa, sing this text loudly and with conviction.
A Children’s Club Against Gender Violence
The children meet in the classroom of a school called Ngemba. Ngemba is a primary school for girls, but for the gender equality club activities, boys from the Mazaya School, located across the road, are welcome.
The club was founded in the framework of a program promoting equal opportunities called Hommes et Femmes, progressons ensemble. The program is put into motion by the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and UNICEF, thanks to financial aid received from donors such as yourself and the European Union.
By encouraging behavioural changes in the relations between boys and girls and between men and women, the program contributes to reduce cases of gender violence and promotes a harmonious lifestyle between men and women.
Violence against girls and women, as well as boys and men, is a human rights and public health problem in both conflict and non-conflict zones of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Abuse, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, domestic violence, disastrous traditional practices, a lack of resources and opportunities for women take place in schools, living rooms, workplaces, and in public spaces all across the country.
Learning to Play and Sing while Doing Laundry Together
Don Mbula Sambo is 12 years of age and he is a member of the gender equality club in Bagata. He sits on a class bench with his female friend Merveille Mwanet (12 years old). Together, they are both happy to be a part of the club that they joined on their own volition.
“Here we learn to play together, girls and boys. We sing together. We also learn that it is important to share tasks amongst boys and girls here in the club, in school, and at home.” Says Don.
For him, it’s become normal to help with household tasks: “At home, I help my big sister with laundry. I like doing this.” Even though he enjoys these tasks, he admits that it is not the case for his father. These are small gestures and behavioural changes that can contribute to an increase in equality between girls and boys.
Taking Gender-Based Violence by the Roots
Father Godefroid from Caritas Congo, a collaborator with the UNICEF program, highlights that the program contributes to various facets of Congolese life in the town-province of Kinshasa and the provinces of Kwilu, Kwango, and Maindombe.
In addition to the consciousness-raising activities related to gender in schools, the program also includes a micro-financial aspect which aims to render women more economically strong and therefore independent.
“In Bagata, 21 micro-finance projects were launched since the start of the program. Each project has 25-30 members, both men and women,” explains Father Godefroid. “Every member can obtain a small credit and, for example, buy salt or sugar that he or she can sell in the market with a small margin.”
With small steps, the Hommes et Femmes, progressons ensemble program contributes to a more equal way of living between men and women and it reduces the roots of different kinds of gender-based violence, which occur to those in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Post Translated from French by Ambika Varma
Photo:UNICEF RDC 2016 Yves Willemot
Yves Willemot est le chef de l’Équipe InfoCom de l’UNICEF RDC. Plus que tout, ce qui est important pour lui c'est d'être "tous ensemble pour les enfants".
Yves Willemot is Head of the UNICEF DRC InfoCom Team. More than anything, he believes that the most important is to "be together for the children".
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