Paving the way for inclusive governance in Kasaï

 

The Inclusive Governance for Peace programme in Kasaï Province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), implemented by Action pour la Paix et la Concorde (APC) in partnership with Interpeace, has made significant progress in empowering women's and youth leadership.

For a long time, women in the region have been marginalised and their decision-making authority limited. However, a new era of inclusivity and equality is emerging, providing women with more opportunities and rights.

In 2019, Munda Tshonga Mado, a 47-year-old mother of six, was a homemaker. By 2020, she had become the deputy of the "Mawika" district in Kamonia, Kasaï Province. Her leadership, characterised by democracy, inclusivity, and dedication to peace, has earned her recognition and appreciation in her role as district head.

Since 2021, Mado has been participating in peacebuilding events, including training sessions for community-based organisations. APC and Interpeace organised these sessions, which focused on conflict analysis, positive conflict transformation through mediation and dialogue. Women like Mado found a platform to reclaim their voices and assert their roles in the public sphere.

Sharing her story, Mado says: "During this time, we attended several training sessions with local authorities. One day, the chief of Kamonia district, Job Kayimbo, approached me to take on the role of chief of the Vatican locality, one of those in his district. Shortly thereafter, a conflict arose between the incumbent chief of the Mawika district and his deputy. Faced with the difficulty of reconciling them, the mayor of the rural commune of Kamonia, who also appreciated my work, appointed me as chief of the Mawika district, consisting of five localities."

Mado's appointment as the chief of the Mawika district, a position previously considered unattainable for women, shattered stereotypes and highlighted the potential of women to lead in traditionally male-dominated fields. She actively participated in peacebuilding activities for the project "Renforcer la gouvernance pour la paix en République démocratique du Congo," funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida).

In 2022, Mado's journey took a significant step forward with the launch of APC's project aimed at enhancing women's leadership. She actively participated in workshops and training sessions along with her peers. These sessions covered various topics including women's leadership, UN Resolutions 1325 and 2325, and the factors that contribute to women's exclusion from decision-making processes. As a result of these efforts, a positive shift in attitudes occurred, with male participants now advocating for women's inclusion in positions of authority within peace mechanisms and political arenas.

During a workshop on peace governance in November 2023, Clément Yaudiko, the President of Civil Society in Kamonia, expressed his support for Mado's development initiatives. However, Yaudiko also emphasised the importance of addressing cultural barriers that hinder the empowerment of women and the progress of young people in the Kasai area.

Mado faced discrimination from male politicians, leading to a limited number of votes cast against her in the 2023 election. Undeterred, she maintained her resolve and decided to contest as a national deputy for her party, the Union pour la Nation Congolaise (UNC), in the Kamonia electoral district. Despite falling short of a majority in votes, Mado persisted and showcased her dedication to the political arena by actively pursuing mentorship opportunities.

Her journey reached its pinnacle when she was elected as the president of l’Union des Jeunes pour le Développement Intégral de Kamonia (UJDIK), showcasing her ability to mobilise at the grassroots level and effectively engage with the community. At present, Mado collaborates with local leaders, providing mentoring and guidance.

Mado's journey serves as a reminder of the importance of gender equality and women's empowerment in Kasaï. It advocates for inclusive governance in peace-related matters and highlights the province's untapped potential to fully utilise the capabilities of its women. This paves the way for a future where women can lead with confidence and conviction.

Saoudata and "peace circles" help women in Burkina Faso

Saoudata Ouedraogo is a woman who is very committed to her community, and who is spearheading an initiative to strengthen women's resilience and their contribution to peace in the commune of Kaya.

"I am Madame Ouedraogo Saoudata, president of the women leader's network for tolerance and peace in the North-Center region, and also regional coordinator of the women of the North-Center region.

Since the beginning of the crisis, I have seen a real need to work with women on issues of tolerance, living together, social cohesion and peace in my commune. Indeed, the displacement of populations creates discomfort and requires a great deal of adaptation on the part of both the displaced and the host populations. That's why I decided to work in particular with internally displaced women by setting up "Peace Circles" with 50 women, so that they can cultivate the spirit of resilience and peace for a better way of living together in the host areas.

The implementation of the "Improving conflict prevention and security governance in Burkina Faso" project has been an essential and vital contribution to the continuation of my work with women victims of the country's security situation. Indeed, thanks to this project on security governance, I benefited from training on the Peace Circles tool and conflict transformation.

Following the training, I had a better understanding and knowledge of the "conflict sensitivity and proactivity for peace" dimension. I therefore decided to share this capacity-building initiative with 50 other women from the host community.”

This initiative thus enabled the 100 internally displaced women and women from the host community to mix. This helped them to carry out income-generating activities (IGAs) in harmony with each other, so as to contribute to the costs of their households and live with more or less dignity.

Saoudata Ouedraogo's action, praised by her community, has helped reduce latent tensions and has improved the living conditions of these women.

The project was implemented by Interpeace, with funding and technical support from the Canadian government through the Stabilization and Peace Operations Program (SPOPs). Its aim was to improve the level of security in the target regions of Sahel, East, Centre-North and Boucle de Mouhoun in Burkina Faso, through the involvement of women in particular, as part of a peacebuilding approach.

DRC: Strengthening women’s leadership for peace in Kasaï

The Kasaï region, once an oasis of peace, has experienced a deteriorating security situation in recent years due to a highly violent conflict of customary origin in the Bajila Kasanga village within the Dibaya territory, Kasaï-Central province, one of the 15 new provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Emerging in 2016 from Jean Prince Mpandi’s demand for legal recognition of his authority by state authorities, this conflict led to the rise of the “Kamwina Nsapu” militias, who spread terror across the entire Kasaï-Central province initially, and later throughout the five provinces of the Kasaï region, commonly referred to as the “Grand Kasaï.”

This conflict resulted in an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the region, marked by numerous loss of lives, looting, destruction of basic infrastructure, and massive population displacements, significantly hindering local, provincial, and regional development. A crisis of trust exacerbated tensions between community members and between populations and state institutions, threatening reconciliation and reconstruction efforts due to lingering wounds.

Thérèse MBELU, one of the women traumatised by the atrocities of the “Kamuina Nsapu” phenomenon, shares her story:

"I lived in Tshikula, in the Dibaya territory, the epicentre of the ‘Kamuina Nsapu’ phenomenon. I was staying with my sister-in-law, whose husband lived in Kananga. The militiamen stormed our home and beheaded my sister-in-law right before her eyes. Then, they tied my father-in-law to a tree and executed him. These two events profoundly affected me. I began experiencing hypertension and gastritis attacks whenever these memories resurfaced. Physically weakened and inconsolable, life seemed meaningless; I was utterly desperate. In addition to my eight children, I took on the responsibility of caring for my sister-in-law’s orphans.

In October 2022, a national non-governmental organisation (NGO) called “Travail et droits de l’homme” (Work and Human Rights), working in partnership with Interpeace and with the financial support from Peace Building Fund in DR Congo (PBF-DRC), conducted a mission to identify cases of women traumatised by the “Kamuina Nsapu” conflict in Tshikula. Jean Marie Kajibwe, the president of the permanent dialogue group (GDP) in Dibataye, who was aware of my situation, invited me to participate in this gathering where several other women were also present. After attending the sessions, each of us individually shared her story. I was referred to the chief medical officer at Tshikula Hospital, who listened to my account and recommended me to a psychosocial assistant. This assistant began providing me with regular guidance and support. Over time, these interactions greatly comforted me, and I gradually came to realise that it was not the end of the world.

In March 2023, the TDH team returned to Tshikula and asked each of us about her desired career paths among three options: tailoring, soap making, and pastry. Personally, I chose soap making because I had worked in it once before, although with limited success. Our soap making group consisted of 30 learners, under the guidance of Madame Esther, for a duration of two months. During this time, we acquired new skills and practical knowledge. These sessions also provided us with an opportunity to share our painful experiences and find solace in one another. Since then, these memories haunt me less frequently, and my health has improved.

Currently, I have improved the quality of the soaps I produce, and they are well-received by everyone. However, I am limited by resources. I sell my soaps at the markets in Tshikula and Nkufula. Every two weeks, I use three kilogrammes of caustic soda, six measures of oil, and three measures of water to produce 180 soaps. Each soap is sold for 500 Congolese francs ($0.18). With my modest capital of 60,000 FC ($22), I earn a profit of 30,000 FC ($11) from each production cycle, allowing me to cover my children’s school fees and support my two orphans.”

Therese Mbelu expresses heartfelt gratitude for the initiative taken by Interpeace, in collaboration with its partner “Travail et droits de l’homme,” to restore hope and life to women traumatised by the effects of the “Kamuina Nsapu” conflict. She testified that, at the beginning of the training, each woman was withdrawn and introspective. However, as they interacted with one another, they learned to share their experiences, find solace, and gradually rediscover the joy of living. These women have come together to form A Village Savings and Credit Association (AVEC), where they gather every Sunday. Despite facing challenges due to their vulnerability, they remain confident in themselves, hoping that any assistance in income-generating activities would enable them to work harder, improve their economic situation, and save within their AVEC.

Intégration du genre dans les actions de consolidation de la paix

 

Dans la mise en œuvre du projet pour « renforcer le leadership des femmes et filles pour la paix au Kasaï et Kasaï central » à l’Ouest de la République démocratique du Congo (RDC), le consortium composé d’ONU-Femmes, Interpeace et son partenaire Action pour la paix et la concorde (APC) facilite la participation des femmes dans la consolidation de la paix.

Depuis juin 2022, ce projet a mis en place des actions pouvant réduire l’exclusion de celles-ci dans certaines instances de prise de décision et dans les initiatives de paix. Aujourd’hui, plusieurs acteurs étatiques et non étatiques se sont engagés à promouvoir le leadership féminin en les associant dans la gestion de leurs entités respectives.

Cette vidéo est une histoire qui retrace la lutte engagée par une femme de Kakenge, en territoire de Mweka, dans la province du Kasaï. Celle-ci a su mobiliser toute la communauté jusqu’à influencer les autorités pour intégrer quatre femmes dans le conseil de sécurité locale. Un modèle de changement qui joue un rôle important dans le processus de la paix.

Celebrating our own women peacebuilders on International Women’s day

A world with a future that is equal for all, is a world free from stigma, stereotypes, and violence. It is a future that is sustainable and peaceful with equal rights and opportunities for all. However, this kind of world is still a distant dream for many women across the globe. Despite this reality, women from all over the world in different contexts and communities, stand up against these barriers by becoming leaders and by persevering in their careers.
This International Women’s Day, we celebrate the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a future of equality and a future of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. At Interpeace, we reflect on the journey of our own in shaping a future of equality and a peaceful society - real-life champions and role models in peacebuilding.
Roya Elmuntaser is operations officer of Interpeace’s Libya programme based in Tripoli. She is overseeing finance, human resources, logistics and legal aspects related to our work in Libya. Having grown up in a semi-traditional home in Tripoli’s suburbs, and academically ranked as one of the top students, she pursued a degree in economics and political science and then specialized in accounting at Tripoli University. She always dreamed of having a job, which would enable her to contribute to positive change in her own community. She is proud to be a part of Interpeace and contributing to a cause which is near and dear to her heart.

Roya Elmuntaser, Operations Officer, Libya Programme, Interpeace.

Her message to young women is to, “focus on the positives and don't overwhelm yourself with the negatives. It’s not always easy and simple to occupy a space but I assure you that you are much stronger and resilient than you think, so be kind to yourself”.
Renée Larivière is the Senior Director of Programmes at Interpeace, providing leadership to the organization’s peacebuilding work worldwide. Her experience in more than 30 countries includes a focus on people’s engagement with violence, conflict management and promoting conflict transformative approaches. She provides leadership and transforms the way peace is fostered, emphasizing that it is important to bring this lens for women and girls that are facing or emerging from conflict.
To her, peacebuilding  involves three fundamentals: The absence of structural violence, peace and security for all, and peace premised on the integration of gender perspectives. Finally, she also focuses on equal participation in peacebuilding processes.

Deputy Director-General, Interpeace

Renée Larivière, Senior Director for Programme Management, Interpeace.

“Women, including myself, find the courage to speak up in our everyday lives both professionally and personally. Yet, continued systemic and social barriers brand us as troublemakers, no matter the context where you work or live”. However, she notes that in speaking up we not only demonstrate courage, we also influence others to follow suit.
“Don’t be afraid to speak up. Stand up, be vocal. Find your voice!” says Renée.
“Peace cannot be built from outside; it has to be built from inside” reflects Abiosseh Davis, Global Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Manager of Interpeace.
Abiosseh, born in Gambia, and raised in the US, was surrounded by many strong women in her childhood. She desired to make an impact in the world and also see the world around her after her studies. Her first exposure to development work, where she witnessed women being excluded, got her thinking, “this is not how development should be done”.
Her philosophy resonated with the mandate of Interpeace and the ethos of local ownership and facilitation, which does not take over the process. She has seen inclusion as a working reality as opposed to a conceptual ideology, and she is proud to be a part of an organization, which thrives to build more inclusive societies.

Abiosseh Davis, Global Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Manager, Interpeace.

“I have always been a minority everywhere I have gone.  I am a minority in the place I was born, I was a minority in the places where I grew up and studied and I am a minority in the place I work currently. But this job gives me the opportunity to give voice to women like me in the process of building peace,” says Abiosseh.
Her message to young girls and women is very clear, “don’t let yourselves be placed in a box, constantly look for ways of creating the type of life you want to live. Create the kind of expectations you wish for yourselves and maintain a sense of openness and wonder. You never know what it would lead to”.
As the world celebrates “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” we at Interpeace muse over the acute need for a world where young girls and women can turn their dreams into reality, not a world that is imposed and restricted. Girls and women can change the world, and be who they have dreamed of becoming. The world needs more women at every table where decisions are being made. The world needs women in leadership to stand up and take action, and the girls in their communities and schools to take on leadership. The world needs you.

Ten Foundations for Gender Inclusive Peacebuilding Practice

The present Peacebuilding in Practice paper lays out the foundations for gender inclusive peacebuilding and is a result of a reflection process that Interpeace took between 2017 and 2019 to examine its implementation of gender programming. It demonstrates lessons learned and recommendations for developing, implementing and evaluating gender inclusive programmes. This Peacebuilding in Practice paper, developed through a consultative process across Interpeace offices as well as on an extensive literature review, aims to strengthen Interpeace’s capacity to bring its unique contribution to building sustainable peace and advancing gender equality. The practice note is intended to be complemented by the development and application of tools and processes that allow for the effective implementation of the ten identified foundations.