Sunday, August 8, 2010

Give Thanks for Women who bear the worlds pain and sorrow

Today we highlight a Blogger/Citizen Journalist who has reached out and touched the otherside of our hearts - Cher from recently did an interview with Mugisho Theophile of the DR Congo.  the efforts of Bro. Mugisho are outstanding and deserve to be publicized.  if you can spare a moment, please take time and visit the original post and leave a supportive comment, as it's the right thing to do.

To Read the Entire Piece Click the Title PLEASE

In February of 2010, I interviewed Mugisho Theophile regarding his efforts in the DR Congo for promoting rights of Congolese women who are suffering massive attacks of rape, mutilation and murder, not only themselves, but against their children. Mugisho has bravely set out to help these women under most dire circumstances. Mugisho and I decided to do a follow up interview on the progression of his organization COFAPRI.

Cher: Mugisho, I understand that the name of your organization has been changed. Can you tell us why? In addition, your organization has not been registered. What are the reasons for that?

Mugisho: Cher, I thank you very much for organizing this follow up interview. I am sure people need to know what has been done so far since we had our last interview of last February. It is true that the name of our organization has been a little bit modified. It is now called CONGOLESE FEMALES ACTION FOR PROMOTING RIGHTS AND DEVELOPMENT-COFAPRI. Such a change has occurred because of the precious advice we got from the registration officers. In fact, they want us not only to help Congolese and the Great Lakes Region –GLR-( region composed of three countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo- DRC-, Burundi and Rwanda) women and girls recover their social and home rights but also involve them in developing their respective biodiversities, environment, families and countries and everything around them. The point here is that no rights can be enjoyed if people are lagging behind in development. In general, if human rights are respected, this is development as well.

As for not having registration up to now, it is due to the process that takes long. In fact, as a young organization, we had first to make ready all the required documents that were required to present to registration officers, like the statutes, the regulations, the logo, etc., which took us a long period. Once we had drafted all those documents, we were required to get clarifications from the registration officers for approval. From the above, you can see that this truly requires a long process. It is in this context and following the recommendations we were given, that the organization name was also changed a little bit. As everything is now in the registration officers’ hands, we hope to get registration in the very near future. We will be pleased to inform you with every process done ahead.

Cher: What is your target population and what are the reasons for your choices?

Mugisho: Our prime target populations are the village women and the girls who have been victimized by violence either in the consecutive long lasting wars that devastated the Eastern part of the DRC in particular and the GLR in general or in their respective households. We focus more on remote villages because women and girls of this area suffer unimaginably, beyond what we expect. The international organizations based in the country fail to reach these areas because no roads lead to those areas and in case there are some, they are poorly maintained. The warfare that lasted for more than a decade caused people, particularly females and children suffer in different ways. In the case of the DRC, men were killed at the spot. Women, girls and children, who were the most victims, were also sometimes killed for sure but in an awful way.

They are raped, tortured and even mutilated, which made and still makes some of them suffer physically, morally and psychologically. Our focus is much directed toward the women, the girls and the children in remote villages in the Eastern DRC where wars were mostly terrible. In these conflicting zones, women and girls were massively raped and some of them got unwanted pregnancies. These odious acts occurred either in the home of the victim or in places where they were hiding in the bush; and sometimes this happened in the eyes of family members. Some boys and men were sometimes obliged to rape their mothers, sisters or daughters in the eyes of the criminals. Fathers were compelled to rape their daughters; the criminals would ask a relative to kill the member of the family. In the case of desistance, the recalcitrant was shot dead and if he was lucky, he only got tortured. Everything was done in public. Some of the girls who were raped gave birth to children who have no fathers.

As stated earlier, men were slaughtered, as these women are now widows and that they give birth to fatherless children and that most village women have no jobs, these children will not have any financial support. This situation puts these people into a quagmire and it pushes these children to become street children. The girls will mostly involve in early prostitution with the aim of supporting their families, which is a danger for security in the future. There are other women and girls who were contaminated AIDS and others died from the wounds they got in their genitals.

In the latter case, it has been proved via various international and local reports that in some areas, females were raped by exaggerating number of rapists: more than two rapists on a woman or a girl and this happened several times on the same individual, without not even considering the age and the conditions in which the unfortunate victim was. Women as old as 72 and children (girls and boys ) as young as 5 were raped. Pregnant women were also raped, most of them got abortion and others died in their hideouts. For the reasons above and many more I did not include, the Congolese woman and her daughter and the whole community were ridiculed to death through such odious treatment. Such barbarian domination of the woman reflects non respect of human beings. This caused trauma to these women and girls; physical, moral and psychological wounds remain in their brains. In this way, they need healing and support.

In addition to warfare violence in the DRC, there also exists household violence. This time, this is issue of culture. Over ages, the society has always been instilled that everything should be under man domination. The Great Lakes Region, in general and the DRC, in particular have never been exempted from such beliefs that weigh too much on women and girls because they hinder their integrative development. In the case of the DRC, mostly in villages, women and girls are totally deprived of their basic rights. In the same way, as they have no word in public, they hardly report sexual violence they underwent because it is shameful and prohibited for a woman to speak about sex in public as this is considered as a taboo issue.

Some other women and girls are denied the right to attend school because of the fallacies of some men and fathers, who are the family decision makers, believe that girls are not as performant as boys at school; that the girl will be married and so no use to spend on her since she will not be productive for her parents. In other areas, women are totally not allowed to eat some food, here called taboo food, which obviously contains vitamins and proteins necessary for body development, like eggs, chicken, meat of goat, etc. Such items of food are surrounded of lots of myths to make women and girls understand that they should not eat it, a sign of selfishness and greediness of those men.

In homes, men set strong power on everyone in the family and so beatings are commonplace. In case a woman is a bit instructed and takes the case to justice, she is considered as rebellious and unbearable. This male dominated justice will not give the woman reason, but rather blame her while she is a victim. Justice will tell her she was married once for all and she should be obedient and take the case as it is. The majority of men believe that a woman who takes her husband to justice is an abomination in the society.

We, therefore, believe that such old fashioned attitudes on human beings, like our mothers, sisters and daughters need support from somewhere. And we are there to give support, though little, to these unfortunate creatures who are victims of imposed warfare or household violence. Women and girls have their rights as we men do because all people have rights though they are infringed.

Cher: Is your organization operating now?

Mugisho: Yes, our organization is operating now and the very few of the activities on the agenda are being conducted by the volunteers of COFAPRI via organizing meetings and seminars. Understand that we are still at the very start and do not think we are supporting everyone in need.

Cher: Specifically, what actions are you or will you undertake in order to help these victims of sexual abuse?

Mugisho: Specifically, these are some of the activities we hope to commence; some of them are already undertaken:

- fees for some of Assisting children and women victims of warfare by paying school the most needy of these children, women are trained to do some handicraft as to gain life and so support their families. In this way, we are rearing some animals like pigs, hens and goats that we sell to pay fees for the children and to support some women.

- Raising the awareness on human rights in general, children and women’s rights in particular as they are the most vulnerable.

- Presently, we are strongly sensitizing the population on the environment protection and biodiversity and so we are planting trees where they were cut down.

- We are sensitizing pregnant women in their prenatal state vis à vis AIDS/HIV, other STD and family planning.

- We have undertaken to raise awareness of the plight of violence. Our contribution here is the eradication of the major causes of violence, injustice and discrimination of the minorities in the household, the DRC and the GLR. To this issue, a lawyer member of COFAPRI is helping the victims to claim for their rights by pleading their cause in justice.

- In case we get enough financial means, we would set up a school for teaching the population of this region about human rights, particularly the rights of women, girls and children. The same school would also accommodate the children who have been orphaned by wars and who have no means to proceed with studies and those who were born from rapes. In the same context, would be created as well.

Cher: The DR Congo is rich in minerals which are used in cell phones, laptops video recorders and jewelry. It has been written that armed militia groups continue to control these minerals and profit from them. Despite the presence of United Nations peacekeepers, armed militia continue to violate human rights including raping women and children. How does this impact your ability to reach and help these women?

Mugisho: Indeed, this is a terrible situation that really seems to impede our activities to reach the areas that are under this militia control. It is true that the DRC land engorges various minerals. The latter are being exploited by the militia who are often based in mineral zones. These minerals are giving them possibilities to foster the warfare. These militia do not easily allow intruders on ‘their’ land because the minerals are a good deal for them. They are using women, girls and children of the area under their control to excavate ores for them without pay. In addition, because of fear and intimidation, these women and children become their sexual objects.

Nevertheless, we try to negotiate and show them that those people also need assistance. We hope to start broadcast programs in the future in order to help both these militia and these women to understand the aim of our mission and that of every NGO working for the same purpose in the country. We believe trough radio broadcast, we can reach the most remote areas of the county and so our message will reach everyone no matter where they are. These militia sometimes ask for ransom money to have access to the area. The area in which the UN peacekeepers are based is far from where the militia operate and these militia are nationals who know better the area than UN peacekeepers. But some of these UN units have also once been pointed out as exploiting these minerals and even involved in raping women. The issue here is complex and that is why it is a real obstacle to reach freely the area.

Cher: Can you tell us about the people who are supporting you?

Mugisho: Yes, Cher. Indeed, we are not alone in this noble fight. We believe the way is thorny and long but unity is force. We are very strongly supported by the population of the GLR in general and those of the DRC, in particular. Here, understand the local and church leaders, the civil society and some local and International NGOs who are behind us. The Church and female Organizations in particular are very eager to see COFAPRI spreading countrywide as soon as possible as to back them and walk abreast for the same cause and objective; that is give them support and bring light where there was darkness. Together, we aim to build a society in which women, girls, and children are respected, given a word, work for development and finally enjoying their rights. We also have particular individuals in the country, in the region and worldwide who are supporting our noble actions on bringing changes in the development of human rights.

Cher: What message would you like to send globally to bring attention to your cause?

Mugisho: The message to send to the mass of people who are fond of supporting COFAPRI in defending human rights and development, particularly the rights of women, girls and children, is first to thank them for their support to our cause. But also I am pleased to tell them to never give up before victory is lifted. In this way, in case they are able they can lend COFAPRI a hand in any way possible to further successfully its activities. This will help us help the women, the girls and the children who were or are still victims of war and household violence in the GLR and the DRC and so to develop this region. In one word, I tell them on behalf of COFAPRI to stand abreast united for change.

Cher, receive my heartfelt thanks for the courage and interest you have for our struggle here. This is again another way of supporting our activities and we are grateful for that. Finally, I thank everyone who has been putting COFAPRI in their prayers for achievement and anyone taking interest in reading about us; and any suggestion is welcome.

Once more thank you, Cher, for this follow up interview.

Cher: Your efforts are most honorable, Mugisho and our global society is enriched by someone like you, who gives so selflessly to such a worthy cause. You put words into action and truly care about the safety of DR Congo women, children, and the betterment of your country in general. My prayers are with you and with the women of the DRC Congo. You have undertaken an enormous task with much courage. Be well, my friend, and know that many will carry you and your message in their hearts.

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