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New Approach: Using Gender and Social Cohesion to Promote Gender Equality and Women Rights in the R.D.Congo

Following many years of researches, awareness raising, campaigning, and advocacy for African women’s rights and therefore human rights in general for peace and human security, an innovative approach has been developed which promote Gender and Social Cohesion; in order to address inequalities and gender based violence (GBV), particularly Violence Against Women (VAW).

This new approach was first developed as a training on raising awareness Violence Against Women (VAW), Human Rights and Equality for the UK based African Diaspora women (D.R.Congo, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea,) through London based Voices of African Woman Campaign of UK WILPF .

Objectives: This approach was conceived in October 2010 to respond and to contribute to the objectives of the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020) launched by the African Union in October 2010 to move from theory to practice in the implementation of the mechanisms that guarantee the rights of women in Africa, in order to accelerate the implementation and realization of the objectives set out in the various conventions, protocols, and declarations adopted by the African Union. In particular two key documents are used, namely: The African Charter on Women’s Rights (Maputo Protocol) and the African Union’s Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality.

The innovation is that this approach is based on specific scientific evidence, in order to rigorously raise the awareness of women and men in the promotion of gender equality and gender equity, as well as to address all forms of gender based discrimination and violence, particularly those done to women and girls. This new approach is based on basic genetics, physiology (hormonal functioning) and biology in conjunction with legal instruments, particularly Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the various legal frameworks on human rights.

This approach defines gender (sex) as characterized by physiology (which is static) and gender as constructed by societies through time or context (which is dynamics). This approach highlights the female and male reproductive organs and understanding of reproductive health and their importance as a human right necessary for social cohesion, peace, justice and sustainable development.

The presentation of this approach is designed to raise the awareness of men and women to a better understanding of gender (in term of sex roles or traditions), equality, and respect for human rights and to initiate a change of behavior. The presentation / workshop can be done in 2 hour (in summary), but it is preferable to take 4 hours, depending on the audience and the context, because gender issues require a special attention and reflection to identify harmful practices as well human rights abuses that need to be eradicated.

The Training is designed in two one-day sessions, for those who want more information or use this approach as awareness-raising tools to acquire a thorough understanding and change behavior for better social cohesion.

1. The first session of the training is designed in the form of an interactive dialogue between trainers and participants with an emphasis on the definition and understanding of gender, equality, equity, inequalities, norms and traditions as well as the identification of gender-based violence; particularly against women and girls (with emphasis on traditions and culture in Africa). This session allows participants to deepen their knowledge and help them become trainers or simply better campaigners.

2. The second training session is designed to assist participants in understanding various existing legal frameworks on human rights. This session highlights the role and responsibility of individuals, the community and society in accordance with the legal frameworks as well as the responsibility of states in enforcing the laws and mechanism of awareness of equality, protection of the human rights of citizens against abuse, discrimination, persecution and other human insecurities. This session addresses ignorance of the laws and the reflection that discrimination and violence (based on gender, especially with regard to women, disabled people, indigenous peoples, or minority populations who are different or vulnerable) are violations of human rights and crimes that are punishable by law. A PowerPoint presentation is used for illustration or demonstration. A dialogue between the participants is generated by an interactive discussion (Questions / Answers or recommendations as well as testimonies). Several printed documents containing information are distributed.

Gain for the communities (men and women) by 2020: At the individual level: initiate critical / analytical reflection on gender, biology / human body, identity, equality, equity, various practices or norms, attitudes and discriminatory behavior towards women and girls and in relationships. At the community level: make an inventory and a community diagnosis on gender issues, acts of genderbased violence (such as those done to women), causes and consequences of violence against women.

Seek solutions and context-specific strategies that can lead to or induce change that can be demonstrated qualitatively and quantitatively in public and private institutions. At the level of society: a social analysis on issues of equality and violence against women; for a change in norms / traditions that promote respect for their rights. This approached is now being implemented with great success since January 2017 in Kinshasa (D.R.Congo) and is being considered to be taught as a module or linked to a course in Schools and University from October 2017, as well as to develop a Center that will be called Centre for Women, Peace, Security and Gender Cohesion.

Marie-Claire Faray

(Common Cause UK/ WILPF UK)

(Views expressed in The Blog do not reflect those of WILPF)

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