In their efforts to promote the dignity and respect of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially in the eastern part of the country, women advocates have paid a heavy price for their actions: verbal and physical attacks, rape, intimidation, arbitrary detention, death threats and torture. Some have been forced to leave their homes and be separated from their children. Others had to flee the country and to run for their lives. Family members have also been targeted. Their homes and workplaces have been vandalized, their property confiscated or destroyed. The list goes on.
We face these dangers, because we are women and therefore share a particular vulnerability. The risks are higher, because we defy societal structures, patriarchal institutions, entrenched economic interests, traditional practices and twisted interpretations of religious teachings. We are targeted by community elders, religious groups and even family members.
We do all this, because we want to say that ‘You, who have been sexually abused, know that you too are precious in our sight. You are still our mother, our sister, a beloved daughter. You remain the cherished spouse of our father’.
Justine Masika Bihamba, DR Congo, is the coordinator of “Synergie des femmes pour les victimes des violences sexuelles” (Women’s Synergy for Victims of Sexual Violence). She was honoured with the Pax Christi Peace Award in 2009.
To read more about International Women’s Day 2016, click here.