Across the world, the 8th of March marks a global celebration in honour of womanhood as International Women’s Day. However, globally, women are still treated differently according to the culture and customs of their environments. For women in eastern DRC, starting from 1996, womanhood has too often seemed like a curse rather than a blessing as rape has become a virulent weapon of war.
On International Women’s Day 2013, Jambonews wrote about the inhuman conditions of violations, humiliations and dishonor faced by mothers and daughters in the Kivu region and their resilience to succumb to victimhood. One woman described how she was humiliated and forced to eat her dead husband’s remaining parts.
Recently, the aggressive environment of these women has escalated as the Congolese government, in cooperation with MONUSCO, the UN mission in the DRC, launched a military operation in the region to disarm the Rwandan rebel group FDLR.
Following the announcement of the operation, in January this year, a group of young Rwandans expressed their concerns on the fate of Rwandan refugees and Congolese civilians in eastern Congo in a letter addressed to SADC and ICGLR and demanded for a peaceful solution instead.
The signatories recalled how in 1996, some of them were ‘’hunted down like animals and massacred with clubs, machetes, bayonets, hoes and, for the fortunate, by bullets or bombs’’. Undoubtedly, many female refugees among them also faced additional sexual abuse and torture.
Likewise in the controversial BBC documentary Rwanda’s Untold Story, interviewee Marie Bamutese talked about her horrific experiences after she had fled from president Kagame’s army into the Congo. In the interview with the director, she revealed how her grandmother and mother struggled through the war and how she was raped by locals in order to keep her family safe.
Today, as the war in eastern Kivu is reinforced by recent attacks under the umbrella of disarming the FDLR, more and more girls like Marie are being trapped in a seemingly never-ending circle of violations against their womanhood. Their worth and value is being measured by subjective instruments invented by their male counterparts and falsely rendered nihil.
Instead, these mothers and daughters are the backbones of their societies and they deserve justice and peace. Above all, they deserve recognition for their strength and endurance. Particularly on International Women’s Day, they are to be honoured for carrying for the children on their backs, for leading civil society groups and building up their nation.
On this 8th of March, a thought goes out to these impeccable women fighting for their rights in Kivu.