Bukavu, South Kivu – Democratic Republic of the Congo
Following graduation in private and judicial law at the Université Libre des Pays des Gran ds Laces-Goma, I worked for two years as an intern at Bukavu garrison military auditors. Subsequently, I started to work in the humanitarian world, first with a two-year internship at Maison des Mines des Kivu, an advocacy group for artisanal mining of South Kivu. I later joined CCSi as a research collaborator, focusing on gender and sexual violence in conflict affected, IDP and mining communities. As an extension of my work with CCSI, I accepted an engagement as program assistant at PAF-AFRICA/ITURI- Bunia, for more focused field research in the Ituri region, an area that has long been plagued by many life-threatening conditions, such as heavy ethnic and economic tensions, dense and highly criminalized artisanal and industrial gold mining, Ebola, and more recently, outbreaks of the Black Plague. All these adverse conditions are added to widespread and pronounced poverty, with a large percentage of rural inhabitants living on less than USD 0.50 per day, and without available medical services. In response to wide-pread gender and sexual abuse, I established the not-for-profit MWANAMKE MJASIRI (MM) – the Swahili expression for Brave Women (see the English website: Brave Women and the Swahili mirror site: MMAfrica ). MM was created as a self-help group and to educate the international community about the many forms of abuse by which predominantly women and girls are affected, even in regions of Central Africa where wars were formally ended more than 15 years ago.
I’m a victim of gender-based violence starting from my earliest youth. I grew up in a Pentecostal Protestant family with a very domineering father whose primary interest was to abide by his ideas of religious- and ocial norms, that included among others, that his religion treats women and girls as inferior and dangerous to the spiritual wellbeing of men.
This deep disregard for the female gender was in my case further exacerbated when I was declared to be a child witch, and abandoned from time to time in prayer rooms where I had to endure violence of all kinds. As an adult, I was raped, subjected to physical and emotional harassment and psychological violence that I found difficult to recover from. For many years, these problems caused me much emotional torment, until I was eventually encouraged to talk about my experience. After seeing the gender-based violence taking place in our families, our communities, and country, a group of women from my community (some of whom are also victims of gender-based violence) decided in June 2019 to create an organization whose mission is to fight against gender-based violence. We believe that the local and international community needs to understand the practical application of human rights in general and the rights of women and girls in particular. We, the members of MM believe that we can be instructive and lift the veil that conceals so much violence, including violence that is condoned by churches and church leaders.
We chose the name MWANAMKE MJASIRI - Brave Women - to show that women are brave even in the face of the worst adversities. We at MM see potential for improvement in each of us, and we understand that we are determined to use the power inherent in us to stand up and claim our rights and responsibilities without fear, shame or dread.