Young woman fights for safety of women in public spaces

Joselyn Mudikongo Lukeni, 23 from Kinsenso
Photo: ActionAid
Zimbabwe team
Communications Focal Person

I am the Communications Focal Person for ActionAid Zimbabwe.

Joselyn Mudikongo Lukeni, a young woman of 23 years living in Kinsenso Town, a peri-urban city situated on the outskirts of Kinshasa, capital city for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), promises to leave no stone unturned in her community with regards to securing safe public spaces for the women and girls in Kinsenso.

Currently studying law at university, Joselyn is a leader of a youth drama group, currently creating awareness raising and conscientisation in Kinsenso on the importance of respecting women’s rights in the home and in public spaces using arts and theatre performances.

Through the drama performances, we have made recommendations to local government authorities and non-governmental organisations such as ActionAid and its partner Women National Committee for Development (CONAFED) on introducing initiatives that can result in our city becoming safe for women and girls, said Joselyn.  

Women in this city have been exposed to public violence due to various reasons namely the general lack of respect of women’s rights due to patriarchal norms and values, lack of public services such as water and electricity, the lack of police details and stations and the presence of some idle and unemployed men in the streets who sexually abuse women.

 ActionAid and its partner have provided some training on safe cities, women’s rights and how safe cities can be attained to some of the youths who were members of gangs that were sexually assaulting women in public spaces. There has been transformation as some of the youths are no longer doing so. Some of them have also been jailed.

She however said there was still need to address unemployment and idleness in her community as some youths were engaging in unruly behaviours because they were unemployed and idle.

“We need resources to help with setting up a multi-purpose youth centre to ensure that some of our youths are engaged in various activities which can be income generating or sporting initiatives so that they have no time to wonder around the streets doing nothing,” said Joselyn who has been trained under an ActionAid DRC Safe Cities Programme whose objective is to promote safe public spaces for women and girls in Kinsenso.  

The people in Kinsenso live in crowded conditions which are slum like with poor access to public services such as water and electricity. Most of the employed people are touts and drivers who get meagre wages (about US$3 per day).

The unemployment in DRC has affected many youths in this community who are unemployed and idle. This has made the streets of Kinsenso an unsafe environment especially for girls and women. Some of these youths have turned into gangsters moving around the streets with machetes, broken bottles and sexually insulting women and girls in public spaces.

Joselyn said although there has been an improvement on the safety of women in her city due to an increase in police details and setting up of a police station in her community, lack of access to water and electricity in the homes remained a threat to the safety of women in this community.

All women are at risk because they are the ones that collect water and firewood. The situation is severe to young women and girls as they are the ones that help their mothers to fetch water and they do it more than their mothers, she added.

ActionAid DRC in partnership with CONAFED is implementing the Safe Cities Programme in the area with the aim of making women and girls aware that the violence they experience in public spaces is a violation of human rights. They are also promoting a change in the attitude of boys and men to treat them with respect and dignity and protect women and girls from violence in public spaces. Provision of gender responsive public services is one of the issues the Kinsenso community is lobbying local authorities for to ensure women and girls are safe.

The Safe Cities Programme in Kinsenso has reached 1 284 people assisted directly and 27 200 indirect people. The Safe Cities programme in the DRC is part of a global ActionAid Safe Cities Campaign aimed at creating a safe and free public space for women and girls in towns and cities.  #Safecitiesbecause