International Women’s Day, celebrated each year on March 8, is an opportunity to highlight the achievements of all women and girls globally, while calling for greater equality. This year, the Living Peace Institute (LPI), Equimundo’s office in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), celebrated International Women’s Day in the country’s North Kivu province with recreational games and community discussions to empower women, promote nonviolence, and foster healthy relationships.
“Women Are Critical to Community Development”
In honor of International Women’s Day, LPI organized a discussion forum for members of the military and civil society about the importance of women’s participation in community development. The event, which took place on March 9, included almost 100 Living Peace participants from the military, their wives, civil society members, and LPI staff members. A representative of the organization Rien Sans les Femmes (“Nothing Without Women,” in English) also took part.
Aloys Mahwa, LPI’s Living Peace Project Director, opened the event with a speech about International Women’s Day and the Living Peace approach. Living Peace, developed by Equimundo and Institut Supérieur du Lac (ISL), is an initiative that works to prevent violence in post-conflict settings through evidence-based psychosocial support and group education for men and their partners, coupled with community campaigns and outreach.
Next, Josephine Malimukono, the representative of Rien Sans les Femmes, presented the development, mission, and objectives of the Rien Sans les Femmes campaign, which was created in March 2015 to promote gender equality and women’s representation at all levels of decision-making in DRC. One of LPI’s trainers, Bora Shirubute Rebecca, continued the event’s opening remarks, going into greater detail about the Living Peace approach, its objectives, and its methodology.
All of the participants then took part in an open discussion about the importance of women’s participation in the development of their community. The women participating in the discussion, whose husbands served in the military and had participated in Living Peace, expressed the vulnerabilities they still felt within their communities related to illiteracy, lack of knowledge about sexual and reproductive health, and persistent poverty. They discussed barriers to women’s advancement posed by entrenched social, religious, and gender norms – as well as ways forward.
After participating in the daylong discussion, women said they gained confidence about their value and felt empowered to promote change within their homes and throughout their communities.
Fostering Healthy Relationships and Peace Through Games
On March 10, LPI organized a day of games and sports to promote camaraderie and trust among participants and to raise awareness about the Living Peace approach. Over 30 members of the military who participated in the first and second rounds of Living Peace groups competed in a friendly football (soccer) match, while participants’ wives competed in a game of Nzango (a traditional Congolese sport for women that involves singing, jumping, and dancing).
These games aimed to showcase and celebrate the positive, healthy relationships between men and women who had participated in Living Peace and to ensure wider dissemination of the Living Peace approach. Participants suggested that these games continue to be organized in the future.