Women challenge government to provide gender responsive public services to make cities safe for women and girls

Photo: ActionAid DRC

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Violence against women and girls remains widespread throughout all the segments of the Congolese society. These include among family members, communities and public places such as universities, schools, street corners, work and market places. In Kisenso, a suburb of Kinshasa in the DRC, there are several underlying reasons that hinder the mobility and safety of women and girls in public places. These are due to the lack of adequate public services, fragile educational system, poor urban planning to address issues related to the provision of electricity, transportation and water, weak judiciary system coupled with poor implementation of laws to prevent rape, and high level of corruption and impunity of perpetrators.

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A baseline survey conducted by AA DRC in the early part of 2017 revealed that 83.4% of respondents, of whom 45.1% are women and girls, do not feel safe in Kisenso. The findings are similar to a safety audit report (AA DRC, 2017) that suggests that 82.4% of participants expressed the same feeling. Only 10.9% of women and 6% of men surveyed reported that they felt safe in some public areas of Kisenso Commune like churches, municipal terrains, universities and business centres at Saint Etienne as well as the work place.

AA DRC also mobilised 750 women to work with other stakeholders to undertake participatory data collection at the local level to identify gaps to deepen their understanding and appreciation of the complexities of violence. The data will help build collective action to challenge and disallow practices that promote violence against women and girls in Kisenso.

At the community level, these women have initiated processes to break the culture of silence as well as lack of action on violence against women and girls.

In furthering their quest to address violence and factors that promote it in Kisenso, 100 women held an engagement meeting with territorial and provincial level basic services providers and law enforcement agencies in Kinshasa to demand government responsiveness to the issues of lack of water, electricity and protection for women and the people of Kisenso in general.

File 37924Memorandum presented to Police by the women

Representatives of the women presented memorandums to the Cabinet Minister of Gender and Children, Provincial Minister for Gender and Education, Rigideso (Water Company), the electricity corporation, the Bourgmestre of Kisenso Commune and the Congo Police Service. The Ministers, Police and heads of service providers assured the women of their readiness to respond to the demands of the women.

The police also indicated that they have started responding to some of the issues by deploying police to farm sites to prevent bandits known as “kalunas” from harassing women and girls on their farms.

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