details

Dynamic of Women Jurists (DFJ), North Kivu

DFJ is a registered NGO with the provincial government.

Location

Goma, North Kivu province
North Kivu

Sectors of Intervention

Sexual violence; human rights

History

Founded by female lawyers, judges, and activists in 2001, DFJ (Dynamique des femmes juristes) initially advocated for human rights and legal action against perpetrators of human rights violations during the war. Results became increasingly difficult to attain during the transitional government, as there was no functioning justice system in place. The organization remained active in the community but did not have the capacity to prosecute cases due to the dysfunction of the judicial system and limited donor funding to fight impunity. In 2006, when the first democratically elected government was installed, five women lawyers who had just graduated from law school in Goma decided to invest and further develop the organization, as now the justice system at least had a legitimate government behind it. Their courage and actions were recognized, and they secured their first funding from Finnish Church Aid in 2006 to prosecute cases relating to the violations of human rights with an emphasis on women.

DFJ is composed of counselors and lawyers who legally assist survivors of gender-based violence and women whose rights have been violated. DFJ works with various different women’s rights organizations and coalitions. These groups refer women to DFJ, which then follows the case, collects evidence, and prosecutes the case in court if adequate evidence is available against the defendant. When funding is obtainable, DFJ supports lodging expenses for women who must come to Goma to prosecute their case.

DFJ also focuses on property and inheritance rights. Often, after a woman’s husband dies, her in-laws may try to take their possessions, claiming that it belongs to the husband’s family. According to Congolese law, the wife has the rights to all the property owned by her husband, but this law is rarely enforced and has a detrimental effect on widows and their children. DFJ has worked with many international donors, including ICCO (Dutch aid), MONUC Human Rights, Finnish Church Aid, OSISA, and ECI.

Mission

Defend the rights of survivors of gender-based violence and prosecute legal and human rights violations against women

Objectives

  • Prosecute cases of sexual violence and women’s rights violations in the provincial court system
  • Successfully convict offenders of women’s rights
  • Challenge the court system to develop a stronger system of managing cases involving the violation of women’s rights through consistently prosecuting cases in court
  • Educate the community about their rights guaranteed under the Congolese constitution and the consequences for breaking the laws protecting women

Programs

 

  • Legal counsel: DFJ operates four rural centers and a center in Goma for legal advice. These clinics are supervised by paralegals who determine whether or not a resolution should be pursued through mediation or legal prosecution. If it is determined that the victim is willing and there is adequate evidence, the paralegals will refer the case to DFJ lawyers in Goma. If it is judged that mediation is a more apt solution, the paralegal will gather the parties and serve as the mediator.
  • Prosecution: DFJ specializes in prosecuting cases related to women’s rights, primarily focusing on sexual violence, inheritance rights and land rights. DFJ provides a lawyer for the plaintiff and follows the case through finality. Over the past three years DFJ increased the number of cases prosecuted in court, but the percentage of judgments decreased in part due to President Kabila’s initiative in early 2010 to train new judges and eliminate former judges, and in part due to the increased caseload DFJ faced.
  • Psychosocial assistance: DFJ began offering psychosocial support to clients in 2008 after recognizing the significant trauma that many women suffered. All clients are offered the opportunity to see a counselor regularly.
  • Community education: DFJ educates communities through the media, faith groups, and schools. It particularly focuses on United Nations resolutions 1325 and 1820 regarding the rights of women.

 

 

Governance

An administration council and a control commission are composed of nonpersonnel in order to objectively evaluate and assist with overall strategy and approach. The three members of the administration council meet with DFJ personnel every three months in order to discuss the progress of objectives, goals, and challenges encountered. The administration council must approve every project and budget that is submitted to an outside funder. The control commission is made up of two nonpersonnel who perform an internal audit twice a year before an external audit is performed. The board consists of 13 members, including the members of the administration council and control commission. The board meets yearly, and the personnel present a report of activities, budgets, successes, and challenges, and discuss future funding. DFJ has 12 staff.

DFJ has a bank account at BIAC in Goma. For financial, administrative, and personnel management, DFJ has:

  • A procedures manual with policies for financial management; hiring and personnel issues; and purchasing policies and procedures: YES
  • A computerized accounting system: YES
  • A clearly defined accounting process: YES
  • Clear procedures for management of payroll, petty cash, procurement, and disbursements: YES
  • Staff with the technical expertise to undertake projects: YES

Strengths

  • Has the capacity to train other women and lawyers and mobilize the community
  • Staff lawyers are well trained and respected in the community. The organization cultivates positive relationships with the local authorities and the military and is well known by the local judicial courts.
  • Has a strong network of organizations supporting DFJ’s efforts. DFJ can call upon this network anytime for lobbying and public demonstrations regarding particular cases. They also rely on these organizations for connecting with women who need assistance.

Needs

  • More staff to reduce the current staff ’s workload
  • DFJ’s executive director oversees both day-to-day operations while also prosecuting cases, and has limited time to invest fully in either.
  • There have been no plans for sources of auto-financing to develop reserve funding to rely on during potentially difficult times.
  • There are various other organizations producing radio programming, particularly on the issue of sexual violence, and therefore messages should be shaped so as to not duplicate, but instead complement, existing efforts.

Funders and Budget

In 2010, DFJ’s budget was $130,000; however, for 2011, DFJ expects its budget to be $220,000. Funders include ECI, Finnish Church Aid, ICCO, and UNHCR.

Accomplishments

  • In 2007, DFJ prosecuted 24 cases with 17 judgments in the favor of the survivor.
  • In 2008, DFJ prosecuted 35 cases with 21 judgments in favor of the survivor.
  • In 2009, DFJ prosecuted 80 cases with 40 judgments in favor of the survivor.
  • In 2010, DFJ prosecuted 100 cases with 67 judgments in favor of the survivor.

Organizational Vision

Contribute to strengthening the judicial system by consistently defending women’s rights in the provincial court system and educating communities about the Congolese law and constitution

Project Proposals

  • Increase capacity to prosecute cases: DFJ will be able to prosecute more cases annually with additional lawyers and funding for court fees and transport for women. Prosecute an additional 30 cases. Cost: $25,000 over one year
  • Community education and legal support centers: Expand community education and legal support centers throughout rural areas in North Kivu, giving survivors in rural areas the chance to receive counsel about prosecuting their case at a provincial level. Cost: $50,000
  • Training for lawyers and paralegals: Train paralegals in rural areas to provide legal advice to survivors. Provide continuing education and training for lawyers to be more effective in prosecution. Cost: $30,000

Contact

Claudine Tsongo, +243.998.091.890, or Nelly Mbangu, +243.995.406.684, dfjasbl@yahoo.fr

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