By Chouchou Namegabe
‘Women’s rights are human rights. The fundamental liberties of women must be respected and defended, both in Congo and around the world. When those rights are violated, we all have a responsibility to be bold and to reject inequality.’
Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo face enormous challenges. Many are forced into manual labor, do not have the right to own land or property, have limited access to opportunities for socioeconomic development, or are subject to gender-based discrimination and violence. What’s more, we almost never hear about these issues in the media.
In 2003, I decided to take action to address this. I set up the Women’s Media Association (AFEM) to train women across South Kivu province to produce radio broadcasts on the challenges facing women in the local community. Through rural ‘radio clubs,’ we amplify the voices of rural women and harness the power of radio to highlight the issues they face on a daily basis, to men and women alike in the local community.
We provide journalistic training and recording equipment to these women in order to capture and record the stories they want the community to hear. AFEM has now set up 32 women’s radio clubs across the province, and I’m proud of the difference these inspiring change agents have already made in their local communities.
Wabiwa Depapy, a mother of eight, is one of the leaders of AFEM’s radio club in the rural territory of Kamitunga. Wabiwa received training from AFEM on radio journalism and now has access to high-quality recording equipment to capture the stories of local women in Kamitunga.
“I used to work in the mines here, just a few miles away from where I live. It was a terrible job – exhausting and painful work. Women suffered all kinds of sexual abuses from the other miners while they worked there,” Wabiwa said.
“While I was still working at the mine, I heard about the AFEM radio club and it really interested me. I decided to leave the job in the mines and received training from AFEM on how to be a reporter. These days, I feel like a big-time journalist! With the microphones and equipment we have, I try to show how bad conditions are for women working in the mines and promote fair labor rights. I feel really proud when I hear these stories on the radio and hear people in the community discussing them.”
AFEM’s radio clubs have made exciting progress and with ECI’s investment this year we have set up eight new women’s groups across the province, informing and educating local communities across South Kivu on these critical issues.
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Chouchou Namegabe is the coordinator of the Women’s Media Association (AFEM) in South Kivu province, eastern Congo. Chouchou was a journalist for 10 years, working for Radio Maendeleo in Bukavu.