Women in the DRC put their best foot forward

Women in the DRC put their best foot forward

Date: August 31, 2011
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After several postponements, national elections will be held in November 2011 and local elections will be held in 2012 in DRC. Activists are demanding that attempts to dilute gender requirements in the electoral act be withdrawn and that parties put their best foot forward for the elections.

The DRC ratified the Protocol In December 2010. There were Presidential and Legislative Elections in 2006, but Local Government Elections failed to materialise. Of the 33 candidates for the Presidential elections, only four (12%) were women. Women comprise 8.4% of the house of assembly; 5.5% of the senate and 12 % of cabinet.

Inspired by the SADC Gender Protocol,women in DRC are protesting against Article 13 of the Electoral Law which is in Parliament at the moment. For them, this article is against the Constitution and will bring an end to gender equality as it is contrary to Article 14 of the Constitution voted in 2006 which stipulates equality between women and men. The article states that “equality between women and men for the next elections is not a reason not to accept the list of candidates,” negating the previous paragraph that states: “each list will take into account, if need be, the equal representative of men-women and people living with a disability.”

After failing to block the article in the lower house, a coalition called “State Amendment 13” committed to gender equality is going to the upper chamber. “Cadre de Concertation de la Femme Congolaise (CAFCO) is inviting all persons concerned to join a march starting from “the People’s Place” or Parliament.

In June 2011, the Gender and Media Diversity Centre (GMDC) organised a debate chaired by Dorothee Swedi of UCOFEM on how to move forward regarding gender and the forthcoming elections in the DRC.

Chantal Malamba, a well known gender activist talked about the urgency of having at least 4000 women as candidates and even more than 4000 women must be encouraged to join politics and make their voices heard. She also highlighted that women need training as they have been side lined for too long. “During the past five years nothing has been done for women, it is now important to sign a social contract with women so that their needs are taken into consideration. During our women’s congress we have noted that women express themselves very well and have the electoral technique but finance is a major challenge,” she said.

Thérèse Tshibola explained that women must be trained to vote for women. “Women must accompany women on their campaign trails. Women are aware of social and family problems. Women can bring change in politics.” She pointed out that pamphlets have been developed and are being hand delivered to encourage women to register as voters. There are more male voters than female voters in DRC.

Béatrice Makaya highlighted that “women bring more to politics as they are the ones who suffer more from social problems. Women are capable of bringing more justice and equilibrium; women have a lot to bring in politics due to their sensitivity and their leadership and management experience in the home. Women are good in conflict resolution. Women have the capacity to listen, be honest and do door to door campaigning.”

Jean Marie Shimatu recognised that the Sixteen Days Campaign Against Gender Violence started because the lives of women are at stake. “Women are role models in multi tasking. The qualities of women must be explored so that they can become good leaders,” he said.

Journalists wanted to know if members of the Women’s League are organising themselves for the general elections and they wanted to know the strategies put in place and how implementation of the strategies are being done. Panellists responded to questions about women juggling roles and the effects of politics on the family by pointing out that these should be shared responsibilities between women and men.

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