Special Chair Humanitarian Aid
Movement in South
A civil society analysis
Dorothea Hilhorst and Marie Rose Bashwira
occasional paper #11
OCCASIONAL PAPER #11
The Women’s Movement in South Kivu,
DRC: A civil society analysis
Dorothea Hilhorst and Marie Rose Bashwira
The opinions expressed are those of the authors
and do not necessarily reﬂect the policies or views
of Wageningen University or the Special Chair
Humanitarian Aid and Reconstruction. Excerpts may be
reproduced without authorization, on condition that the
source is indicated.
Contact the authors via: email@example.com and
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Special Chair Humanitarian Aid and Reconstruction can
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Table of contents
1 Introduction 9
1.1 CIVICUS framework 10
1.2 Methodology 11
2 Women’s situation in the DRC 15
2.1 The legal position of women 15
2.2 The social position of women (family and gender relations) 16
2.3 Women’s representation 17
2.4 Economic involvement of women 18
2.5 Sexual violence 18
2.6 Concluding 19
3 Women’s civil society and the women’s movement in South Kivu 21
3.1 History 21
3.2 Women’s movement in South Kivu 22
3.3 Community histories of women’s movement 26
3.4 Structures 27
3.5 Structure of women’s civil society in Walungu Territoire 29
3.6 Themes and activities 30
3.7 Women’s agenda in Walungu territory 34
3.8 Conclusion 34
4 Civil society index and women’s civil society 35
4.1 Civic Engagement 36
4.2 Level of Organisation 38
4.3 Practice of values 42
4.4 Perception of impact 44
4.5 External dimension, or the larger picture 45
4.6 Conclusion 47
5 Analysis and conclusion 49
5.1 The role of the international community in civil society strengthening 49
5.2 Strengthening local associations 50
5.3 Lobbying and advocacy 51
5.4 General conclusions 52
5.5 Tentative recommendations 53
Annex 1: List of interviewees 57
Annex 2: The CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI) 59
AFEM Association de Femmes de Media
CAFCO Cadre Permanent de Concertation de la Femme Congolaise
CAMPS Centre d’Assistance Médicaux Psycho-Sociale
CAP Comité d’Alerte pour la Paix
CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation
COFAS Collectif des Organisations Féminines Agissant en Synergie
DRC Democratic Republic of Congo
IMC International Medical Corps
INGO International NGO
GAD Gender and Development
OCHA Ofﬁce of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
MFS Medeﬁnancieringstelsel, Co-ﬁnancing Programme of the Netherlands
MONUSCO Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation en
Republique Democratique du Congo
MUSO Mutuelle de Solidarité (Village Savings and Loans Association)
NGO Non-Governmental Organisation
RFDP Réseau de Femmes pour le Développement et la Paix
STAREC Stabilisation and Reconstruction Plan for War-affected Areas
SPR Synergie des Femmes pour la Paix et la Réconciliation des Peuples des
Grands Lacs d’Afrique
UNDP United Nations Development Programme
UNICEF United Nations Children Fund
UNIFEM United Nations Development Fund for Women
UNFPA United Nations Population (formerly the United Nations Fund for
UNHCR United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
UNSCR 1325 United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325
UWAKI Umoja wa Wanawake wa Kivu
VICO Vision Communautaire (also known as Villages Cobaye)
WID Women in Development
WOPPA Women as Partners for Peace in Africa
This report is the result of three weeks of research on women’s civil society in South
Kivu in November 2013. The report is done within the framework of the evaluation of the
Netherlands development programme, which is steered by WOTRO of the Netherlands
Academic Council. We are grateful for the opportunity to complement the base-line and end-
line studies with a qualitative case study on women’s civil society.
We thank all the women and men who graciously shared their time and insights, and who
patiently responded to all our questions. We are especially grateful to the Réseau des Femmes
pour la Défense des Droits et la Paix (RFDP), the Association des Femmes des Média du Sud-Kivu
(AFEM-SK), and Villages Cobaye (VICO) for helping us to organise the ﬁeldwork in Walungu
Territoire. The women in Walungu Centre, Kamanyola and Burhale have been most hospitable
and generous in sharing their experiences with us. We also thank Cordaid for facilitating the
validation session at the end of our ﬁeldwork. We thank professor Bashwira for helping us
with transportation and numerous other things, and professor Mashanda for his advice.
We quite enjoyed spending time in Bukavu in Oasis, our usual home-from-home. It was a
pleasure to work closely with Carolien Jacobs and Bart Weijs, who lead the DRC Evaluation
of the Civil Society Strengthening component and we thank them for their assistance and
This report will be translated into French before sharing and validating in a feedback
workshop in the beginning of 2015. During this workshop the recommendations will be
discussed and ﬁnalised.
About the authors
Dorothea Hilhorst is Professor of Humanitarian Aid and Reconstruction at Wageningen
University. Her publications focus on the everyday practices of humanitarian aid, disaster risk
reduction, climate change adaptation, reconstruction and peace-building. She coordinates
research programmes in Angola, DRC, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Sudan, Mozambique and
Uganda. Since 2007, she has a number of research programmes in Eastern DRC, usually
in collaboration with the Institut Supérieur de Développement Rural in Bukavu. www.
Marie-Rose is a PhD Candidate at Wageningen University in the Humanitarian Aid and
Reconstruction research group. Her work focuses on gender and mining governance in
Eastern DRC. She has obtained a Master’s degree in microﬁnance from the Free University
of Brussels at the Solvay Business School. She has been a researcher and lecturer at the
Catholic University in Bukavu since 2008 and has previously completed research on mining
and women’s microﬁnance groups.
The position of women and their problems have been a major development concern.
Women’s social and reproductive rights are a priority issue for the Netherlands Development
Policy. As part of a large evaluation of the Dutch development programme in the Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC), this report analyses the characteristics and capacities of women’s
civil society in South Kivu.
The report is meant to provide input on two aspects of the evaluation:
• civil society strengthening
• international lobby and advocacy
The Netherlands Development Programme MFS (co-ﬁnancing system) ﬁnances intermediary
Netherlands-based organisations that fund civil society partners in various sectors in the
DRC. This report describes a case study of civil society in one sector: women’s rights.
Women in the DRC still face many challenges when it comes to their empowerment.
In the ﬁrst national elections in 2006, women made up the majority of voters but very
few managed to get elected: 8 per cent in the National Assembly and 8.6 per cent in the
Senate (International Alert, 2012). Through intermediary development organisations, the
Netherlands supports a number of women’s organisations, mainly in South Kivu, that
address a range of issues including the economic empowerment of women and female
leadership, sexual violence and gender-based violence, and women’s rights more broadly.
The evaluation of the Netherlands Development Policy is concerned with the ways in
which development projects have strengthened civil society. It aims to analyse changes
that have taken place in civil society in the evaluation period (2011/2012-2014) and the
extent to which Dutch development interventions have contributed to these changes. The
evaluation consists of a base-line and an end-line study which focuses on a large sample of
development projects. In addition, one of the case study components of the evaluation looks
at international lobbying and advocacy and examines lobbying and advocacy around UN
This qualitative analysis of the women’s movement has been conducted in the middle period
of the evaluation and aims to provide in-depth insight into women’s civil society in South
Kivu. As background to establishing the ways in which particular initiatives contribute to
speciﬁc aspects of society, it is important to understand the totality of women’s civil society
including trends and general achievements. This is the rationale of the case study. As there
were few secondary sources available to serve as context for the evaluation, this required
This report is guided by the following research questions:
1. What is the general situation of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo?
2. What is the history, composition and general characteristics of women’s civil society in
3. What trends can be observed and what are the perceived strengths and weaknesses
of women’s civil society at the provincial level of South Kivu in terms of their civic
engagement, level of organisation, practice of values, perception of impact, and external
4. How does women’s civil society strengthen local women’s associations in South Kivu?
5. What can we learn from the above about lobbying and advocacy practices of women’s civil
society in South Kivu?
Chapter 2 addresses the ﬁrst question and is meant to provide background information to
enable an appreciation of changes in women’s civil society in its context. It is mainly based
on a literature review.
Chapter 3 addresses the second question and provides a descriptive overview of the history
and current composition of women’s civil society in DRC, especially in South Kivu, at
provincial and local levels. It is based on literature review and interviews.
Chapter 4 deals with the third and fourth questions and uses the civil society index developed
by CIVICUS, the World Alliance for Citizen Participation1 as entry point to analyse women’s
civil society in South Kivu. CIVICUS (Mati et al. 2010) deﬁnes civil society as, ‘the arena,
outside of the family, the state, and the market which is created by individual and collective
actions, organisations and institutions to advance shared interests.’ In the case of women’s
civil society, we can view the shared interests as the reproductive and social rights of women.
Finally, Chapter 5 draws out the conclusions about international civil society strengthening
and lobbying and advocacy, as well as some general conclusions.
1.1 CIVICUS framework
To analyse the strength of women’s civil society, we used the Civil Society Index developed
by CIVICUS. The Terms of Reference of the evaluation called for the use of this framework in
order to make sure that all the different parts of the evaluation (carried out in parallel in eight
different countries) are based on a common framework.
The Civil Society Index consists of ﬁve dimensions that each have a number of indicators (see
Box 1 below and Annex 2 for an elaboration). While we have maintained the ﬁve dimensions,
we have selected particular indicators on the basis of the relevance to South Kivu, and added
other indicators on the basis of our interviews.
1 See www.civicus.org
Box 1: The CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI)
The CSI distinguishes ﬁve dimensions (see also Annex 2):
1. Civic Engagement, or ‘active citizenship’ describes the formal and informal
activities and participation undertaken by individuals to advance shared
interests at different levels. Participation within civil society is multi-faceted
and encompasses socially-based and politically-based forms of engagement.
2. Level of Organisation. This dimension assesses the organisational
development, complexity and sophistication of civil society, by looking at the
relationships among the actors within the civil society arena.
3. Practice of Values. This dimension assesses the internal practice of values
within the civil society arena. CIVICUS identiﬁed some key values that are
deemed crucial to gauge not only progressiveness but also the extent to
which civil society’s practices are coherent with their ideals.
4. Perception of Impact. This is about the perceived impact of civil society actors
on politics and society as a whole as the consequences of collective action.
In this, the perception of both civil society actors (internal) as actors outside
civil society (outsiders) is taken into account.
5. Context Dimension: External Environment. It is crucial to give consideration
to the social, political and economic environments in which it exists, as the
environment both directly and indirectly affects civil society. Some features
of the environment may enable the growth of civil society. Conversely, other
features of the environment hamper the development of civil society.
Source: Centre for Development Innovation (2012). Operational guidelines for Ethiopia, India, and
Indonesia. Unpublished MFS II evaluation working document. (see Annex 2)
This report is based on three weeks of ﬁeldwork in November-December 2013. The ﬁrst
week was spent in Bukavu interviewing key resource persons from women’s organisations
and other key informants who are part of the women’s movement or who aim to strengthen
women’s civil society. We used semi-structured interviews based on the CIVICUS dimensions
to understand how the women’s movement is understood by the different actors in the sector.
We also did a number of interviews with key informants who are part of broader civil society.
To gain more insight into the community-based dimension of civil society, we conducted a
study in the ‘Territoire’ of Walungu during the second week of the ﬁeldwork. Walungu was
chosen because most of the women’s organisations sampled in the evaluation had projects in
this territoire. Apart from interviews in the centre of Walungu, we had two excursions to local
areas (Kaniola and Burhale), where we conducted a number of focus group discussions.
In the third week, Marie Rose Bashwira and Carolien Jacobs (who is part of the broader
evaluation team) carried out a number of additional interviews in Bukavu.
During the ﬁeldwork several focus group discussions took place and we attended and
observed several meetings that were organised by others. The Box below provides brief
descriptions of the focus groups and meetings.
Box 2: Focus Groups and Meetings
• FG1: 13 representatives of organisations participating in the ‘Droit pour Tous’
campaign about the impact of the campaign on women’s civil society, held in
the Cordaid ofﬁce, 12 November 2013
• Participation in the launch of ‘Femme-au-Fone’, 15 November 2014.
• FG 2: 11 women representing a variety of women’s associations that operate
under the umbrella of COFAS (Collectif des Organisations Féminines
Agissant en Synergie), 16 November 2013
• FG 3: 7 ofﬁcers and members of the VICO cooperative in Walungu Territoire,
18 November 2013
• FG 4: 23 students of literacy class, organised by RFDP, 18 November 2013
• FG 5: 4 members AFEM Club d’Ecoute, Walungu centre, 18 November 2013
• FG 6: 4 members of Comité d’Alerte pour la Paix organised by RFDP, Kaniola,
19 November 2013
• FG 7: 11 members of sewing club, organised by RFDP, Burhale, 21 November
• Validation meeting with 11 participants, Cordaid ofﬁce, 27 November
Data analysis was done using NVivo software, in which the data were coded to analyse the
key features of the women’s movement in South Kivu.
In sum, the report is based on interviews, focus group discussions and literature review.
Most of the interviews were done with two or more people, which was usually the choice of
the organisation. At the end of two weeks of data gathering, a validation workshop was held
with representatives from women’s civil society. Annex 1 provides a list of interviewees.
Although the topic of our research is women’s civil society, we often refer in this report to the
women’s movement. As we will show, women’s civil society is not clearly differentiated from
women in politics, or women civil servants. Interviewees often emphasised that the women’s
movement is broader than just civil society.
This research had a special focus on three organizations that were part of the Dutch co-
ﬁnanced programme: RFDP, AFEM and VICO.
Réseau de Femmes pour le Développement et la Paix (RFDP) was founded in 1999 to promote
the social, economic, cultural and political participation of women. They work through
a network of grassroots groups, the Comités d’Alerte pour la Paix (CAP), to give judicial
support to victims of sexual violence, to raise awareness about human rights and democracy,
and to increase women’s literacy.
Association de Femmes de Media (AFEM) works on the promotion and defence of the position
of Congolese women and their rights through the media. Since 2003 AFEM has become
one of the inﬂuential women’s organisations in South Kivu, working with a number of
international donors, and developing a large network of Clubs d’Écoute, listening groups,
throughout South Kivu.
Vision Communautaire or Villages Cobaye (VICO) is an organisation that aims to improve
livelihoods for victims of war, and to promote equal rights for men and women. Established
in 1996, the organisation works with a wide network of local women´s groups. VICO
has carried out projects for various donors in the past, but the last two years have been
characterised by a lack of funds.
The report references speciﬁc respondents as follows: for NGO staff: NGOM/F#; for
government representatives or politicians: GO#; for staff of international organisations:
IO#; for religious actors RA# and for key informants KI#. Note that we only differentiate
respondents by gender in the case of NGO staff. The number of interviewees in the other
categories is too small, and gender in these cases is less of a distinctive property. The focus
group discussions are labelled FG#, corresponding to Box 2. Respondents were coded on the
basis of their current employment or position. In several cases, staff of INGOs or women in
the government would have a track record in NGOs before taking up their current position.
Women’s situation in the DRC
Although women constitute more than half of the Congolese population (53%), and have an
important role as food provider in the family, they still have a low position in the political,
social and economic sphere. Women’s situation has become worse in the last two decades
due to the war, as a result of which displacement and gender-based violence increased
dramatically throughout the country.
This chapter describes some key characteristics of the position of women in different
domains of life. It is based on a number of reports.2 It must be noted, however, that the
reliability of data is problematic. Even recent reports usually rely on outdated data due to lack
of current data.
2.1 The legal position of women
The ﬁrst woman in politics in the DRC appeared in 1966 when a woman became head of the
Department of Social Affairs. Her nomination was followed by the N’sele declaration in 1967
which proclaimed legal protection and equal rights for all citizens without any distinction.
This was followed by the DRC’s ratiﬁcation of Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of
Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)3 signed in 1980 and ratiﬁed in 1985.
In the 1980s, the ﬁrst bureau for women was created; the ‘Secretariat Executive Chargé de la
Condition Feminine’, which was part of the political bureau of the leading party of Mobutu,
the Mouvement Populaire de la Révolution. The secretariat’s name and status changed
several time during the 1980s. It started in 1981 as the ‘Secretariat Général à la Condition
Féminine’, and became in 1987 the ‘Secretariat Exécutif du Partie Etat Chargé de la Condition
Féminine’. Between 1993 and 2007 the Bureau shifted from a Ministry to a Secretariat and
back again into a Ministry, when it took its current name of ‘Ministère du Genre, de la Famille
et de l’Enfant’ in 2007.4
2 Douma N. (2008) Women, peace and security in the DRC, civil society assessment on current practices and future perspectives of the imple-
mentation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, Cordaid and Whyze research, unpublished document; Sida (2009), Country
gender proﬁle, www.sida.se; Ministère du Genre, Famille et Enfant (2011) Rapport National de Genre DRC; Mpoumou D. (2004) ‘Women’s
Participation in Peace Negotiations: Discourse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’, in: J. Ballington: The implementation of Quotas:
African Experiences, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, IDEA, pp 120-123; www.idea.int/publications/quotas_af-
3 Convention sur l’Elimination de toute forme de Discrimination à l’Egard des Femmes (CEDEF)
4 Heckmus, Forti and Cofﬁ Koussemou, (avril 2013), Rapport ﬁnal sur l’appui au Ministère du Genre, de la famille et de l’enfant en RDC : étude
d’analyse organisationnelle et institutionnelle, contrat n 2012/301648, contrat- cadre com 2011- lot 1, consortium AETS.
The United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1325, adopted in 2000, calls for
attention to the effects of conﬂict on women (women as victims), and in addition, aims to
recognise and advance women’s (potential) leadership in peace processes. This resolution
has also been recognised in the DRC. In addition, The ‘Déclaration Solennelle sur l’Egalite
Entre les Sexes en Afrique’ was adopted in 2004, to promote the Millennium Development
Goal pertaining to gender, followed by other UN resolutions 1820, 1888 and 1889 that are all
related to women’s rights.
Even before the new constitution of the DRC was ratiﬁed, the country adopted a law on sexual
violence in 2006. It aimed to monitor and punish all actions which compromise women’s
dignity. The constitution in its articles 5, 14 and 15 provided the basis and legitimation of
political equality and equity in the DRC.5 In 2009, the country ratiﬁed the Protocol on the
rights of African women6 and signed the SADC Protocol on Women and Development.
The DRC has also developed a national gender policy and a national action plan for its
implementation in the different domains of women’s lives.
However, all these initiatives have so far not had a strong positive impact on the position of
women. Congolese laws are usually not well implemented and people are not aware of them.
Discrimination continues to be at a very high level in education, work places, politics and
the socio-economic sphere. Married women still face multiple deprivations of their rights.
According to the Family Code, they require permission of their husband to be involved in a
legal contract, open a bank account, take out a loan, start a business, or travel. That clause
has been the subject of many discussions but has not yet been modiﬁed ofﬁcially.
The DRC has a high rate of early marriage of girls between the age of 15 and 19 years, mostly
in rural areas, despite the legal age of marriage being 18. Girls of 12 or 13 years old are
obliged by their family or their own mother to get married to an old man (up to 65 years old).
WILPF (2010) also reported that 20% of girls in rural areas are either married, divorced or
widowed between 15 and 19 years. Many cases of polygamy are noted although ofﬁcially this
2.2 The social position of women (family and gender relations)
One of the central problems of gender is the social situation of women. Despite the equality
of men and women before the law, cultural norms continue to dominate and have an
important role in everyday life. There, resistance to women’s autonomy is dominant (Gender
National Report, 2011: 41). Women depend socially on their husbands, although they often
constitute the principal food provider in the family. The low level of women’s education
makes them more vulnerable to external life shocks.
Ideally, an African woman gets married and lives with her husband. A non-married woman
does not have the same status as a married woman. She may be subject to discrimination
5 A. Matundu Mbambi et M.C. Faray-Kele (2010) L’inégalité du genre et les institutions sociales en RDC. The Women’s International League for
Peace and Freedom (WILPF), http://ukwilpf.org.uk
6 Protocole sur les Droits de Femmes en Afrique
and disrespectful treatment. Married women must always be available to their husbands.
In addition, marriage in the DRC culture implies having children. Motherhood is primordial
for women. It is what earns women respect in the community, especially when she has sons.
There are many cases of women who are rejected by their family in law, due to a lack of
children or even lack of a son. Lack of children is also a legitimate cause for having a second
or a third wife in many tribes in the DRC.
Community programmes have had a special interest in the development and empowerment
of women since the 1980s. Now, starting at a young age, women are used to group
discussions as a place where they can have free discussions and voice their ideas. These
group activities are more than a nice way to spend spare time; they become places for
capacity development and literacy.
On the other hand, some parents continue to ignore the importance of girls’ education and
prioritize boys’ education as girls are expected to be devoted to domestic work. Women
always explain that once married, their family-in-law will not consider her diploma but the
work she is able to do for them. If she does not meet the family-in-law standards of work, she
will be returned to her family. In these cases, the mother of the girl will be sanctioned by the
community as she was not capable of educating her daughter to doing domestic work.
2.3 Women’s representation
The Constitution and the adoption of UNSCR 1325 provided the legal framework for
improving women’s participation in the political sphere. There they can have a voice to
contribute to conﬂict resolution, the peace process, and post conﬂict reconstruction. The
electoral law which came into force on 9th of March 2006 had some contradictions. For
example, section 13.3 calls for equal representation of men and women in the electoral lists,
but section 13.4 speciﬁes that ‘the non achievement of equal representation between men and
women does not make the list inadmissible’. As a result, political parties did not feel obliged
to follow this through. Added to this were the cultural obstacles to women’s representation
and the lack of education about the law, which makes women unaware of their rights. Indeed
women’s representation in the political sphere has always been very low in recent years
(Douma 2008; WLPF, 2010; Observatoire de la Parité, 2012).
It is only recently that women started to express themselves and claim to be part of the
decision-making sphere. This is still a process, but assisted by international and national
NGO programmes, women are improving their management capacity and learn how to
become more professional in politics. In 2012, the senate adopted a bill which calls for
a minimum of 30% representation of women in all institutions. This was reconﬁrmed by
President Kabila in his 2013 speech at the ‘concertation national’.7
7 This was a national dialogue on policy reform with representatives of different regions and organisations, organised by the President of DRC.
2.4 Economic involvement of women
Strong disparities exist between women and men in the economic domain. This is expressed
by the control and access to resources. Men formally own all the resources of the household.
The Gender National Report (2011: 95) gives statistics of the lower level of women’s
revenue compared to men and explains this by the nature of women’s business as well as
discrimination in the market. Indeed, more than half of small and informal activities are
performed by women.
The level of control women have over their revenue differs between urban and rural areas.
The Gender National Report (2011: 35) declared that in urban areas women principally take
decisions themselves about the use of their income, whereas in rural areas these decisions
are taken by the men. This is in line with the family law that stipulates that there must be
joint management of resources within the household, with the husband being primary
As in many other African countries, Congolese women in rural areas are the ones in
charge of agricultural activities. Most of the time this is her sole responsibility and women
empowerment programmes often focus on a more equal division of labour. It is still a
general image that rural women spend the whole day in the ﬁeld, to come back in the late
afternoon with food to start cooking and taking care of the family, whereas her husband is in
town drinking and socialising. When he returns home, he will ask for the money and for food
without contributing anything.8
2.5 Sexual violence
The war in the DRC started ofﬁcially in 1996, when the country saw itself invaded by several
neighbouring countries. The atrocities escalated rapidly and have continued for almost 20
years now. The successive wars heavily affected the Congolese population, including women
and girls. The amount of gender-based violence, sexual violence, domestic violence and
population displacement is difﬁcult to estimate. Women are the most vulnerable, and are
victims of physical assault, sexual mutilation and rape. In its 2002 report, Human Rights
Watch noticed that ’rape has been used as weapon of war and intimidation’.9
Even though there is major attention to conﬂict-related sexual violence, it is now being
recognised that a high level of sexual violence occurs among civilians, both in rural and in
urban areas, which seems an expression of the low esteem for women on the one hand and
on the other points to an erosion of social norms that protect women.
Sexual violence has many repercussions as it contributes to the erosion of the social
structure, the position of women, the disruption of agricultural activities, draining of social
and health services, and acute poverty.
8 his is also referred to with the nickname ‘zukolye’ given by women to that kind of men. Women are the only food providers and they also take
care of health, school and sanitation of the whole household whereas men are doing nothing but then claim women’s money and food.
9 Human Rights Watch (2002) The war within the war. Sexual violence against women and girls in Eastern Congo. www.hrw.org/re-
This chapter was mainly based on secondary sources and summarized some of the main
issues regarding the position of women in DRC. As it shows, women continue to be
second-rate citizens in several aspects of the law, yet the major impediment to women’s
development is the gap between the law and the culturally-dominated institutions and
practices that render women’s position even lower. With some differences between
urban and rural situations and despite some recent developments towards women’s
empowerment, it can be said that women’s low position is expressed in several domains
including political, social and economic.
Women’s civil society and the
women’s movement in South Kivu
This chapter provides a brief and general description of women’s civil society and the
organized women’s movement more broadly in South Kivu. It starts out with the history,
followed by the structure and the main themes addressed by women’s civil society.
The international women’s movement started to grow after the Second World War, when
women began to make their voice heard. This has been partly explained by the emergence of
a global economy and the surge of women’s employment.10 Even at that time, the principal
themes elaborated by the worldwide movement were women’s legal and political rights,
violence against women, reproductive rights and abortion, sexual liberty, employment and
discrimination, and political participation and representation.
However, there have also been differences noted between the ‘Northern’ feminist movement
(Europe, North America, Japan and North Asia) and the South (Central America, Africa, the
East). The differences are mainly that Southern women’s organisations are more concerned
by poverty, labour conditions, education and health care.
In sub-Saharian Africa, the women’s movement evolved in the context of decolonisation.
The continent has known many crises and instabilities since, which have further affected
women’s positions, including processes related to war, socio-economic instability, structural
adjustment, informalities and corruption. Apart from being victims of multiple atrocities,
women continued to be less educated, with their economic activities concentrated in the
informal spheres of agriculture, artisanal activities and small trade. An important number of
women suffered from malnutrition or death at childbirth.
In view of women’s bad position in African societies, women’s participation and
empowerment became an important objective of many Western development policies.
However, concepts like parity and gender were considered very Western and the idea took
hold that the West – reminiscent of the colonisation – wanted to impose their ideas on
the South without due consideration of the cultural dynamics of these areas. RoSa (2004)
explains that this created a two-sided reality, where on the one hand women acquired
opportunities for making decisions and at the same time felt this was ‘imposed by the West’.
10 M. Maerten (2004) Feminism in Africa. RoSa factsheet 34, www.rosadoc.be
Two principal approaches of the policies were WID (Women in Development) and GAD
(Gender and Development). Until the 1970s, development policies were mainly concerned
with the roles of women as mother and spouse.11 Coming from a ‘wellbeing; approach, the
general idea was that macroeconomic strategies on modernisation and growth would beneﬁt
women as it would improve the work conditions of their husbands. The WID approach,
spearheaded by Ester Boserup12, broke away from this approach and underlined the need to
recognise the economic importance of women and the need to further integrate them into
development policy and practises by creating employment, income generating opportunities
and improved access to credit and education.13 The WID concept was criticised for not
addressing the existing unequal relations between men and women and for not taking into
consideration the multiple roles of women and the overload imposed to them.
During the UN Decade of Women (1976-1985) a shift came about in the academic and
policy approach to WID.14 Feminist writers showed the importance of focusing on gender
rather than on women. Rather than perceiving sex differences, gender concerns the social
relationships by which women have been subordinated. The new Gender and Development
(GAD) approach aimed to reduce the existing social, economic and political differences
between men and women and promote better and fairer development. Although GAD
policies signalled a shift away from WID, in reality the two approaches are intertwined or
simultaneously applied in development programmes.15 There is a contradiction between
certain GAD policy rhetoric and practical application which is much more WID oriented.
There is also criticism on the way in which gender is often being reduced in practice to mean
Finally, there has been considerablte discussion on how African women want to address
their social roles. Unlike their Western counterparts, for ‘African women the acceptance of a
certain social role does not exclude a rejection of women’s oppression’ 16. The central value
attached to motherhood continues to be an important aspect of African womanhood, for
3.2 Women’s movement in South Kivu
The women’s movement in South Kivu can be traced to the end of the colonial period. In
1959, Centre Olame already claimed that part of the population was marginalised and not
included in the decision-making sphere. They proclaimed that, ‘if Congo was to become
independent, it must integrate women in the ﬁght for independence’. Some women were being
trained on issues of empowerment and sent to villages to educate women about infant
mortality, hygiene and literacy. They also started to discuss with men the necessity of health
care for mothers and children.
12 E. Boserup (1970) Woman’s role in economic development. London: George Allen & Unwin
13 Harcourt W. (2006) ‘The Global Women’s rights movement. Power politics around the United Nations and the World Social forum.’ UNRISD
programme papers on Civil society and Social movements, programme paper n 25
14 C. Moser (1989) Gender planning in the third world: meeting practical and strategic need. World Development, Vol. 17:11m pp 1799-1825
15 Connelly, P.M, Li Murray, T. MacDonald and J.L. Parpart. (2000). Feminism and Development: Theoretical Perspectives. In: Parpart, J.L.
Connelly, P.M. and Barriteau, V.E.(Eds.),Theoretical Perspectives on Gender and Development, International Development Research Centre,
Ottawa, Canada, pp. 23-51
16 Maerten (2004), op cit.
Issues concerning women’s health were taken up by the ﬁrst NGOs in South Kivu, that mainly
had religious backgrounds. The social department of the Kimbanguiste Church was formed
in 1962. The Diocesan Bureau of Development (Bureau Diocesain de Développement) was
formed by the Catholic Church, and the Protestant Bureau by the Eglise du Christ au Congo in
1970. They aimed to involve their constituency in the development of the country.
In the 1980s, women started with solidarity groups and social meetings and this period
saw the start of non-confessional NGOs. This period also saw the start of economic
empowerment projects for women. For example, Centre Olame introduced the production of
‘masoso’ (maize, sorghum and soya) powder and cookies to improve the food security of the
region, and Solidarité Paysanne joined them for training and capacity building. Comité Anti-
Bwaki (unsuccessfully) tried to introduce donkeys for transport, and Umoja wa Wanawake
wa Kivu (UWAKI) introduced agricultural projects targeting women. These efforts recognised
the disruption to socio-economic development of the rural population caused by Structural
Adjustment Programs (SAPs).17 They also recognised the heavy workload and responsibilities
that fell on women. ‘Women were/are used as means of transport, they carried loads, like
bags of ﬂour, of up to 100 kg on their back.’ 18
In the early 1990s, there was a boost to civil society because of the opportunities created by
democratisation in the ‘Conference Nationale Souveraine’.19 In the context of this process,
civil society started to organise itself as a separate ‘sector’. A civil society network was
formed under the name ‘Conseil Régionaux des Organisations Non-gouvernementals de
Développement’, or CRONGD. In South Kivu, the ‘Bureau de Coordination de la Société Civile
du Sud Kivu’ was formed, as a platform for civil society. Its main objective was to address,
and protest against, the mismanagement of president Mobuto’s government.
At that time, women were an integral part of civil society, but women working in NGOs were
getting frustrated in their work as all the leadership was constituted of men who did not
understand or consider their actions. All decisions were made by men and there was no space
for women to talk. Other women, such as businesswomen and women politicians integrated
into civil society and joined the lobby for recognition of women’s role in society. This resulted
in an initiative to form a women’s action group. There were also several initiatives to form
women’s groups within mixed NGOs or women’s associations that split off from mixed
international NGOs, such as UWAKI (Umoja wa Wanawake wa Kivu, Kivu’s women union)
that came from Solidarité Paysanne.
In the mid-1990s, women in Eastern Congo started to speak out against war atrocities. They
successfully brought attention to the issue of sexual violence, and spearheaded the initial
protests against this.20 Women’s organisations started to demand the recognition and
reinforcement of women’s leadership. This started with women’s capacity to denounce the
atrocities and express their needs. It was often stated that women and men, in the same
situation, can have different problems and different needs.
19 This was an 18 months process where representatives of different regions, civil society and the diaspora were brought together by President
Mobutu to discuss the state of the country and ﬁnd solutions to address its problems.
20 INGO1, N. Douma and D. Hilhorst (2012) Fond de commerce? Sexual Violence Assistance in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Occasional
Paper 02, Disaster Studies, Wageningen, 61 pp.
When a major peace initiative developed in Sun City in 2002, women’s civil society was able
to show that they had become a force to be reckoned with. With the help of UNIFEM, women
members of civil society as well as the members of Femme Africa Solidarité (FAS) and those
from Women as Partners for Peace in Africa (WOPPA) organised a meeting in Nairobi earlier
in 200221. This brought women together from the whole country and women from areas
with warring parties were able to agree on a common position prior to the start of Sun city
The Sun City peace negotiations (Dialogue Intercongolais) marked the start of real regional
discussion on security and economic issues at the centre of Congolese conﬂict (International
Crisis Group, 2002: 3). It was the time to talk seriously about some key issue such as the
disarmament of the Rwandan Hutu militia based in DRC, the reconstruction of Congolese
state and rights and sovereignty. The dialogue was held in South Africa (Sun City) between
March and April 2002. Only 40 women delegates where invited out of 340 participants.
Fortunately UNIFEM and the UNDP decided to invite an additional of 40 women which
brought the number to 80.
Yet only 40 women were allowed to participate in formal negotiations. Further, only 10
women were allowed to attend the follow up to the Sun city meeting in South Africa22.
Many women we interviewed for this research stated that they consider Sun City as the real
beginning of the women’s movement in DRC.
In the prelude to Sun City, the women’s movement came together with the formation of the
Caucus de Femmes, that united women to put pressure on the peace process in Sun City.
Unique about the Caucus de Femmes was that it brought together women from different
parts of the country, i.e. including women from East Congo that was to a large extent
occupied by the rebels, and women from the rest of the country that was fully government
controlled.23 The formation of the Caucus and the participation of the women in Sun City also
testiﬁes that the Congolese women’s movement and the international community are closely
Immediately after the peace treaty of Sun City, the women’s umbrella organisation in South
Kivu split. According to the women who led the split, the CAUCUS had no cohesion at
national level. A group of women from WOPPA was not well accepted as they came from
Rwanda and Uganda. They were considered as enemy groups or traitors. Another point was
that some women coming from Sun City preferred to have a provincial movement. By the
end, a situation emerged where a national women’s platform continued under a different
name, namely CAFCO (Cadre Permanent de Concertation de la Femme Congolaise).24 The
Caucus de Femmes continued as a provincial women’s association of South Kivu. The
Caucus de Femmes and CAFCO have continued up to today, and are afﬁliated to the Bureau
de la Coordination de la Société Civile as alliances.
In the aftermath of Sun City, when a peace agreement was reached and a national
21 NGOF7, NGOF9
government was formed, the Caucus de Femmes lobbied hard to have women represented
in decision making and in the end three women of South Kivu were given a government
position in Kinshasa.25 They then lobbied for adopting the bill on sexual violence. The
experiences of these women in Kinshasa were disappointing – they felt they were not heard
as women politicians or government ofﬁcials. One of the women who took up a position in
Kinshasa returned disillusioned to the province to resume her place in civil society.26
In 2006, the ﬁrst national elections were held. A number of women leaders from the Caucus,
other organisations and members of political parties ran for election. Unfortunately, most
of them did not get elected. Several reasons were given for this outcome. One reason
was found in rumours that affected these women. They were personally discredited, for
example by suggesting that they had a secret love affair.27 It was apparently also a difﬁculty
that women from their own constituencies in the communities ended up voting for a man,
because they thought it more appropriate for men to be politicians.28 Other factors were
related to more general factors, such as the competition between political parties to which
different women belonged and lack of resources for the campaign.29
Nonetheless, the women’s movement had become a political stakeholder. When the next
major peace conference was held in 2009, the women were provided a space to speak
alongside other sections of civil society.30 The local elections that have been announced in
recent years – but continue being postponed – have given rise to a number of initiatives for
accompanying prospective women candidates and initiating voter’s education.
The most visible activities in recent years continued to be the ‘lutte contre les violences
sexuelles’, or the battle against sexual violence. From 2003 onwards, several organisations,
including the Centre Olame and the International Rescue Committee, started to have projects
addressing these issues. In 2006, after the establishment of the national government, the
Law on Sexual Violence was brought forward, under the combined pressure of the women’s
movement and the international community. The women that were part of the Kinshasa
government were able to extend lobbying for the law despite the resentment of the different
warring parties who were all implicated in the violence. The women were strongly supported
by the peacekeeping force of MONUC31 and the Bill was passed in 2006.32 By this time, the
international community had become increasingly prominent in addressing sexual violence.
The high level of attention to sexual violence culminated in the ‘Marche Mondiale’ in
October 2010. A number of organisations collaborated in the planning of the march. This
was the third worldwide women’s march, in which international participants joined local
organisations for a rally in Bukavu, during a 5-day period of action. More than 20,000
people were hosted and worked together with the theme ‘Paix et Démilitarisation’ (peace
and demilitarisation). Comité National Femme et Développement (CONAFED) and COFAS
27 KI1, INGO1
31 MONUC is the Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies en République Démocratie du Congo, the predecessor of MONUSCO, Mission
de l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en République démocratique du Congo
were the central organisations in bringing about this activity. The ‘Marche Mondiale’ was
a highlight and testiﬁed how the cause of Congolese women had become international.
By this time, many women’s NGOs were formed – which was partly explained by the huge
availability of funding. One interviewee estimated that currently a large majority of NGOs in
South Kivu have a (partial) focus on the theme of ‘gender based violence’.33 At the same time,
women leaders started to feel increasingly marginalised in the coordination and agenda-
setting around sexual violence. They were particularly concerned with the fact that there was
no attention to gender issues outside of sexual violence.34 As one of the respondents to our
‘Women’s organisations tried to keep working on these other issues as well. They
formed women’s associations. They also tried to work on poverty. Many husbands
lost their work and became unemployed. Often women had to keep their family alive
through small business activities to support their families. It became increasingly
difﬁcult to give children education, because the government could no longer pay.
There were strikes everywhere.’ 35
3.3 Community histories of women’s movement
Above, we have focused on the high level history of the women’s movement in South Kivu
which centred on women’s organisations based in Bukavu. But it should be stressed that the
women’s movement was also triggered and shaped by the grassroots.
Our interviews in Walungu territory showed that already in the mid-1990s, there were
widespread small initiatives of local women that emerged to assist violated women in their
areas. This started as human rights advocacy. Around the turn of the century, these women
got in touch with provincial NGO representatives, who started to help them to take care of
victims that were severely wounded and/or traumatised.36 This set in motion a development
in which provincial NGOs worked with local associations. These local associations are the
local chapter of a provincial NGO or in other ways belong to the provincial NGO.37
The local women’s groups grew to some extent out of existing structures. The communities
in Walungu appear to have a rich associations. Women have traditionally been organised
mainly through churches. The Catholic Church has formed basic Christian communities,
so-called Cirika, involving many community women. Many of the small women’s initiatives
were started by these groups.38 The Protestant churches likewise have formed women’s
organisations since 1962 in the Conseil Protestant du Congo (or Eglise du Christ au Congo)
in Kinshasa and since 1975 in South Kivu. The churches have formed the ‘Federation National
des Femmes Protestants du Congo’. This Federation has nodes (committees) in all their
territories. Currently, there are 21 local women’s committees.
34 Douma and Hilhorst, 2012
36 NGOF8 and FG5
37 These associations have different names, and are often dubbed as the noyaux, or the nodes of the provincial organisations.
Many women have multiple memberships in associations that seems to consolidate their
position as women of inﬂuence. During a group interview with staff and three volunteers of the
RFDP in Walungu centre, we asked the three women volunteers about their positions:
• The ﬁrst lady was president of a CAP (Comité d’Alerte pour la Paix) of RFDP, she was the
treasurer of the Club d’Écoute of AFEM, she was the secretary of the Cirika chapter, and
had a number of other positions in her home village.
• The second lady was chef de cellule (a small unit, comprising a group of houses of a
community), member of the security committee of Walungu centre (where she was the
only woman in a committee of 15), vice-president of the AFEM Club d’Écoute, responsible
for the coordination of all the RFDP CAPs in the territoire, and head of the CAFCO chapter
of the territoire.
• The third lady was conseiller de quartier (head of the neighbourhood), secretary of the
Cirika, in her parish, and member of a CAP.
We only asked these women about their current positions and no doubt if we would dig
deeper we would have found a history of committee work related to development or
humanitarian programmes. In a similar vein, we found women in the communities who
formed the core of a listening or peace committee having simultaneous positions in other
associations, NGO initiatives or authority-related committees.
This research is primarily interested in women’s civil society. Women’s issues, however, are
not only the concern of civil society. In reality, the distinction between civil society, the state,
politics and international organisations is often blurred, as these organisations often work
together on campaigns or projects for women. In this section, we brieﬂy describe the different
structures concerned with women and gender.
The government body most concerned with gender is the national Ministry of Gender, Family
and Children and its technical branches of the Divisions of gender in the provinces. At the
provincial level, there is a Ministry of Gender, Family and Children which is coordinated by
the provincial government and is seen as the political authority. In practice, the provincial
Ministry usually uses the Division ofﬁce of the national Ministry to implement programmes
in the province. The Division of Gender, Family and Children coordinates a number of
programmes, mainly in collaboration with UN organisations and backed by international
donors. The implementation often involves partnerships with local NGOs. For the Division,
the 2006 Law on Sexual Violence is a leading policy framework. In addition, it works on UN
resolution 1325 which it aims to disseminate throughout the Province.
The international organisations present in the province and concerned with gender are mainly
UN Women, UNFPA, and MONUSCO. MONUSCO is the United Nations peacekeeping
organisation, and it has two relevant sections: the gender section and the section on
sexual violence. The gender coordinator of MONUSCO works closely with several other
civil relations ofﬁcers, and is mandated to promote the implementation of UN resolution
1325. UNFPA has coordinated sexual violence issues in South Kivu until 2011. In 2011, the
provincial coordination on gender started, which is coordinated by the government and UN
Women.39 UNFPA continues to be active in the province, mainly for medical concerns of
reproductive health and rights. MONUSCO’s mandate was until recently restricted to war-
related sexual violence, but the latest mandate allows a broader engagement as it speaks of
The Provincial Gender Division works closely with MONUSCO in coordinating humanitarian
and – increasingly – development assistance. It co-chairs the Protection Cluster of the
UN Cluster System.41 Each of the sub-clusters of the Protection Cluster is headed by a
combination of the UN and one of the technical divisions of the government. These are the
Protection and Prevention Sub-cluster, headed by UNHCR and the Division of Social Affairs;
the Multi-sectoral Assistance Sub-cluster headed by UNICEF and the Ministry of Health;
the Fight Against Impunity Sub-cluster headed by MONUSCO and OCHA; and the Data
Gathering Cluster, headed by UNFPA and the Gender Division.
The Protection Cluster originally only dealt with war-related sexual violence, which was in
line with the mandate of MONUSCO. Now it is increasingly dealing with gender-based
violence more broadly and in more stable areas. As this coordination structure is part of a
stabilisation programme (STAREC), the Division considers it programme-related and leads
in addition a general monthly provincial coordination meeting for gender. This meeting is
attended by government departments, UN agencies and (I)NGOs.
Increasingly, international NGOs that are present in South Kivu have formed separate gender
units or programmes. These include, for example, IRC, ICCO, Search for Common Ground,
International Medical Corps, Cordaid, Life and Peace International, International Alert. Many
of these are concerned with sexual violence, but also women’s leadership, the promotion of
women’s rights and socio-economic activities.
We were not able to assess the level of gender mainstreaming in aid programmes that
have no speciﬁc or exclusive gender focus, such as, for example, attention to gender in
programmes for food security, microcredit or the development of value chains. Speciﬁc
gender programmes mainly relate to advocacy and what we might call social services:
training, responses to speciﬁc cases of rights violations, and, increasingly, small-scale saving
or other socio-economic activities for members of associations.
In December 2013, a coordination meeting was held42 with international organisations
involved in gender. A network was formed consisting of people in charge of gender
programmes to create a group for all international NGOs who are working in promoting
women’s participation in decision making, the promotion of women’s leadership and/or
working on the implementation of UNSR 1325. Their aim is to promote synergy, starting with
39 UN women was formed in 2011 as a merger of UNIFEM and several other UN institutions. It is meant to be complementary to, and collabo-
rate closely with, other UN bodies concerned with women including UNFPA and UNICEF.
40 Douma and Hilhorst, forthcoming.
41 This cluster falls under the stabilisation programme of STAREC, which is the Stabilisation and Reconstruction Plan for War Affected Areas. It
started in 2009 as a government plan, supported by the UN and MONUSCO
42 Notably, this meeting was an initiative by one of the international NGOs in Bukavu.
mapping the locations in which they are operating, sources of funding, their media partners,
local partners, amount of the budget, etc.
Civil society is organised at the provincial level under the ‘Bureau de Coordination de la
Société Civile’. The Bureau is well-known and in fact many people refer to the Bureau when
they speak of civil society. It has for many interviewees gained a negative reputation, as many
view the Bureau representatives as mainly interested in political careers, or as being too close
to the government.43
The ‘Composante Femme’, or Women’s Component, of the Bureau has 93 member
organisations, and meets every month. The gender approach of the Composante is to
integrate parity and women’s leadership into law and everyday life. The actors of the
movement place premium importance on enhancing women’s capacities and integrating
women into the decision-making sphere as a key to combatting discrimination against
women. For this reason, networking is considered very important in enhancing women’s
positions. Inheritance, discrimination and access to justice are high on the civil society
Among the member organisations of the Composante Femme, three are considered
platforms in themselves. These are the Caucus de Femmes, CAFCO (63 members) and
COFAS (44 members). Caucus de Femmes is said to operate largely like an NGO, with
projects and programmes of its own, next to representing a platform for its members.
CAFCO is part of a nation-wide platform composed by representatives from civil society
organisation as well as political parties. COFAS is a collection of NGOs and local
3.5 Structure of women’s civil society in Walungu Territoire
Based on our interviews in Bukavu, we expected to ﬁnd several representatives of the
government or international agencies concerned with women in Walungu. But this was
not the case, or at least they were not referred to. MONUSCO, for example, said they
regularly had meetings in the territoires, but this was not acknowledged by the MONUSCO
commander in the territoire.
There are a number of NGOs in the centre of Walungu, including ofﬁces of RFDP, CAMPS44,
and Vovolib. RFDP has an ofﬁce with a library for women’s affairs. Other women’s
organisations have contact persons in the area, such as AFEM and VICO. There are also a lot
of actual signposts that remind visitors of past initiatives on women and/or sexual violence.
These signposts either stand by the road announcing past NGO activity, or are attached to a
house where the president of an association lives.
43 NGOF7, NGOM1, NGOF7. At the time of research, a new initiative was launched, the Nouvelle Dynamique, which aimed to recapture the
spirit of civil society. It was, amongst others, a reaction against the unilateral choice of the Director of the Bureau to join a national consulta-
tion on the constitution. Although it was broadly decided to boycott this event, the Director had joined and had apparently received a car from
the President as a reward. This issue was raised several times in interviews.
44 Centre d’Assistance Médicaux Psycho-Sociale.
Some interviewees refer to a coordination structure at the territoire level of Walungu, as part
of the Bureau de la Société Civil, but this appears to be dormant.
As mentioned above, there is a rich association-related life in Walungu. We have only focused
on associations attached to the three women’s organisations which are the focus of the
evaluation of the Dutch co-ﬁnanced programme: RFDP, AFEM and VICO.
VICO has formed and supported cooperatives. The cooperative we met had not had any
support for several years, yet continued to have activities. RFDP has organised nodes which
they call CAP: Comité d’Alerte pour la Paix. These women’s clubs facilitate NGO activities,
especially seminars, follow up individual cases of women’s rights amongst the members,
and may operate a Village Savings and Loans Association (Mutuelle de Solidarité, MUSO)45
in which women contribute a small amount weekly which is given every week to one of the
participants. AFEM has a number of listening groups, Clubs d’Écoute, where women can
share their stories. The groups assemble stories and pass them on to the NGO for items
on the radio. AFEM also aims to empower women through these clubs on women’s rights,
and to help them confront, for example, local authorities. In the practice of the communities
of Walungu, the CAPs and Clubs d’Écoute work closely together and sometimes seem to
function in practice as one women’s association.
3.6 Themes and activities
Women’s civil society in South Kivu has no explicit agenda. Similarly, the Composante
Femme of the Bureaux of Civil Society has members but there is also no common agenda.
Nevertheless, on the basis of the interviews and activities the following themes appear to
constitute the agenda of the women’s movement.
• Women’s representation and women’s leadership
The dismal ﬁgures on women’s representation in public positions have given rise to
a number of programmes to enhance women’s political representation. Even where
women are represented in the government, women still form a minority, and ﬁnd it
difﬁcult to inﬂuence decisions at the parliament.46 Women’s leadership appears the most
prominent theme in gender programming. Many INGOs share the perspective of the
crucial importance of women’s leadership to improve women’s participation at different
levels of decision making, with activities geared towards political representation as well as
women’s leadership in the communities.
The W-Lead (Women in Leadership) programme of IMC, for example, works at the
grassroots level to make women understand their place within the election process
and encourage them to vote for women. RFDP provides literacy training, to enable the
empowerment of women. Literacy classes are also used to raise women’s awareness
about their rights. International Alert is developing a project with Caucus des Femmes
45 Also called Rotating Saving and Credit Associations, or ROSCAs.
46 GO2, INGO4
for strengthening women’s citizenship and peace. Other international organisations are
likewise working on advocacy for women’s leadership (UN Women, IMC, International
Alert, Search for Common Ground, ICCO, V-day).47
At the time of our research, there was also a women’s civil society initiative: campaign
30% to 50% (see box 3).
Box 3: 30-50% Campaign
The campaign is a broad collaboration of women’s networks (Observatoire de
la Parité, COFAS, RFDP). The initiative came from Observatoire de la Parité,
and the campaign is for 75% ﬁnanced by the women organisations. The
remaining 25% is ﬁnanced by the INGO IMC. The immediate trigger of the
campaign came from a speech of the President Kabila on 23th October 2013 at
the Congress. The president said:
‘I have taken interest in the proposal to make it obligatory for political parties to
present a minimum of 30% of women on every candidate list. That is certainly
a noteworthy progress, but it does not guarantee a tangible increase of women’s
representation in the elected bodies. As women make up the majority of our
population and are the basis for the national creativity, I propose we will do better.
For that reason I invite the legislator to examine the possibility to add, that in every
body of three seats or more, one is only opened for competition of women.’ 48
The 30-50 campaign ﬁrst wants to make the 30% a reality and then lobby for a
50% representation. At the time of our research, a delegation of eight women
from South Kivu was ready to depart for Kinshasa to have an audience with
the President and lobby with different institutions to make the 30% objective a
• Women’s networking
Women’s voices are strengthened and women’s struggles are more effective in
association with others. The existence of several associations is in the eyes of some
interviewees a strength rather than a weakness, as ‘women’s problems cannot be solved
only by one ‘dynamique’.49 In addition, it is acknowledged that women’s issues are not
just the concern of civil society. The women’s associations also comprise civil servants
and politicians. Women’s networking seems to work most effectively in the framework
of campaigns. ‘In campaigns very different organisations can work together and it
brings together individuals from these organisations that develop the same ideas about
47 Meeting of 10 December 2013 where international NGOs based in Bukavu presented their gender programs.
48 President Kabila’s speech at the Congress, Oct. 23th 2013. ‘J’ai tout aussi noté avec grand intérêt la proposition de faire obligation aux forma-
tions politiques de présenter sur chaque liste de candidats, au moins 30 % de femmes. C’est certes un progrès notable, mais qui ne garantit pas
une augmentation sensible de la représentation féminine dans les Assemblées délibérantes. Et puisque les femmes constituent la majorité de notre
population et le vivier de la créativité nationale, Je propose donc que nous fassions mieux. Dans cette optique, J’invite le législateur à examiner la
possibilité d’ajouter, dans chaque circonscription de trois sièges ou plus, un siège pour lequel la compétition ne serait ouverte qu’aux femmes.’
49 NGOF4, GO1
Women’s rights and gender-based violence
An important theme constitutes women’s rights. This theme concerns a broad category
of legal rights, such as women’s right to inheritance. The theme of women’s rights is
often approached through the angle of gender-based violence. This can include domestic
violence, the denial of inheritance, husbands abandoning their spouses without taking
responsibility for their children, adultery, economic exploitation, violation of the minimal
age of marriage. In broader terms still, it can include the lack of medical care, poverty and
other social problems.
Examples of these activities are found amongst all local associations. One of the
mechanisms employed are ‘tribunes d’expression populaire’, or local public hearings or
tribunals. At the provincial level, the attention for gender-based violence is found in the
different radio programmes and, for example, in the Droit pour Tous campaign (Box 4).
Box 4: ‘Droit pour Tous’ Campaign
‘The Droit pour Tous’ campaign was organised in 2012 by 14 organisations,
funded and coordinated by Cordaid. As part of the campaign, a set of three
ﬁlms was produced about sexual violence, the rights of suspects and prisoners,
and women’s land rights. The ﬁlms were shown 328 times in local settings to
raise awareness about women’s rights, and for legal professionals, reaching an
audience of more than 14,000 people.
The campaign tested people’s knowledge before and after the showings and
revealed that it produced major results in enhancing knowledge, with a lot of
documented anecdotal evidence on changes in perception and attitude.51
• Sexual violence against women
Sexual violence against women is often distinguished from gender-based violence,
because GBV is seen as an expansion and as an alternative to the exclusive attention to
Sexual violence as a theme was not emphasised in the interviews with representatives of
Congolese NGOs in Bukavu.
In Walungu, many programs are exclusively set up to assist victims of sexual violence.
In addition, victims of sexual violence are often mentioned as a special target group of
general programmes. RFDP, for example, accompanies victims with legal assistance,
while CAMPS provides medical and psycho-socio care.
The local women’s associations all have stories of women they accompanied to the
hospital, or in the case of severe trauma even brought to Bukavu to the specialised Panzi
We also found some organisations offering small economic activities to sexual violence
victims, such as Vovolib, which offers modest handicraft projects to women victims.
51 Batano Chubolire,G. (2013) Mission de suivi du projet. Campagne Droit Pour Tous, pour la période de Novembre 2012 à Septembre 2013,
• Women’s autonomy and livelihoods
There is increasing attention to the theme of women’s autonomy, which is a term used
to refer to livelihoods programmes. Many of the women NGOs try to set up small-scale
programmes to work on women’s livelihoods. Two reasons are given in interviews for
the rise of this theme. Firstly, the dire poverty of women is seen as a major impediment
to empowerment. Secondly, attention to livelihood programmes is seen as a response
to an increasing fatigue and willingness among local women to receive training and
awareness sessions that do not provide tangible beneﬁts.52Two examples we saw were the
cooperative set up by VICO, and the sewing club supported by RFDP.Many associations
have so-called MUSOs or ROSCA/VSLA as their activity, where they save and rotate who
gets the weeks savings.
• UN resolution 1325
UN resolution 1325 was signed in 2000 and addresses the inordinate impact of war on
women and the pivotal role women should and do play in conﬂict management, conﬂict
resolution and sustainable peace. The resolution is an important frame of reference for
gender projects. The Division of Gender aims to disseminate knowledge of the resolution
throughout the province. MONUSCO’s mandate is based on 1325, and the UN agencies
such as UN Women and a number of INGOs also use the resolution as a frame of
reference for their work. While we were doing our ﬁeldwork, a new initiative was launched
by the Dutch 1325 platform that includes Cordaid and several other organisations, called
Femmes-au-Fone, that aims to improve communication so that women ﬁnd it easier
to reach assistance in case of sexual abuse or other violations of their rights. As part of
this radio initiative, reception in some parts of the province is going to be improved. It
involves international organisations as well as AFEM, Radio Maendeleo and SPR as local
There are also a number of themes that appear to be important, yet did not come up much
as expected during interviews.
• Peace and security
Peace and security continues to be an important theme in South Kivu, where rebel activity
continues to ﬂare up, and where the human rights’ performance of state authorities
are often an issue. During interviews, however, it emerged that few of the women’s
organisations are currently actively addressing this theme. When asked, they say they
address the theme through their other foci, such as the economic empowerment of
• Gender mainstreaming
The importance of gender mainstreaming was formulated by Sida in 2009 53 as follows:
‘Key development and cooperation programmes aiming at bridging gender gaps in DRC
should focus on institutionalizing the state and mainstreaming gender equality at all levels of
the public sphere, on developing proper gender-sensitive statistics collection, on the long-term
change of traditional/customary norms that marginalize women, on development projects
53 SIDA 2009, p. 10
targeting families, on increasing access to sustainable micro-ﬁnance, on supporting an in-depth
reform of the health and education systems, and on engendering the security sector and justice
Nonetheless, in interviews, concerns with gender mainstreaming were not mentioned.
One interviewee remarked how important it should be to have women represented in the
governmental divisions working on energy and mining, because these sectors are very
important for women’s livelihoods.54
Gender mainstreaming does appear in the discourses of general NGOs. It is then often
described as a cross-cutting theme and phrased as such in project proposals. In practice
however, it does not come out very clearly in projects and seems to be mostly lip-service
• Urban issues
The plight of internally displaced women and urban women was not a theme surfacing
in the interviews of the women’s organisations. The Division of Gender stated it has
no services and activities directed to urban poor women because they do not want to
encourage the ‘rural exodus’ as the rural-urban migration ﬂow is referred to.
3.7 Women’s agenda in Walungu territory
In the above section, we have incorporated examples from the provincial level as well as
local activities. The issues addressed in the territoire are largely similar to the provincial ones,
although the emphasis may be different. Sexual violence was more prominent in interviews
in Walungu as well as other women’s rights issues. At the provincial level, women’s
representation in politics is a more prominent issue. A striking difference is that at the
provincial level, 1325 provides an important framework for women’s organising, whereas in
the territoire, the resolution was never mentioned.
This chapter has elaborated on the history, structures and themes of the women’s movement
in South Kivu. The women’s movement has grown in parallel with international development
discourses on women and gender and has from the 1990s onwards increasingly addressed
issues related to the war and insecurity. While the number of women’s organisations and
coordination structures in the province grew, the main focus of attention was sexual violence.
In recent years the attention to violence has broadened to all kinds of gender-based violence,
including for example inheritance issues, and to promoting women’s leadership and political
Many provincial organisations have local nodes. In the communities of Walungu, these often
have overlapping membership and centre on a core of inﬂuential women. The emphasis of
themes in the province is to some extent different from the local level.
55 This is based on the broader set of interviews done for the development evaluation of MFS-II.
Civil society index and women’s civil
In this chapter, we will analyse our ﬁndings according to the framework of civil society as
developed by CIVICUS.
We started the research using the ﬁve dimensions and key indicators provided by CIVICUS,
and represented in Chapter 1. The CIVICUS indicators are developed internationally, and
not all indicators are applicable in the DRC. In the course of our interviews, we have added
issues and indicators that are incorporated in this chapter.
Civic Engagement or ‘active citizenship’, is a crucial deﬁning factor of civil society. It is the
hub of civil society and therefore is one of the core components of the CSI’s deﬁnition.
Civic engagement describes the formal and informal activities and participation undertaken
by individuals to advance shared interests at different levels. Participation within civil
society is multi-faceted and encompasses socially-based and politically-based forms of
Level of Organisation
This dimension assesses the organisational development, complexity and sophistication of
civil society, by looking at the relationships among the actors within the civil society arena.
Practice of Values
This dimension assesses the internal practice of values within the civil society arena.
CIVICUS identiﬁed some key values that are deemed crucial to gauge not only
progressiveness but also the extent to which civil society’s practices match their ideals.
Perception of Impact
This is about the perceived impact of civil society actors on politics and society as a whole
as the consequences of collective action. In assessing this dimension, the perception of
both civil society actors (internal) as actors outside civil society (outsiders) is taken into
Context Dimension: External Environment
It is crucial to give consideration to the social, political and economic environments in
which civil society exists, as the environment both directly and indirectly affects it. Some
features of the environment may enable the growth of civil society. Conversely, other features
of the environment hamper the development of civil society.
4.1 Civic Engagement
The civic engagement dimension describes the involvement of people in civil society. The
two primary indicators we used are whether respondents perceive women’s civil society as a
women’s movement and whether women’s civil society is grounded in a constituency.
In several interviews56, the mobilizing power of civil society in the 1990s and around the turn
of the century is remembered with nostalgia. In those days, it is said, civil society was able
to address people’s concerns, and even churches were engaged in social activism. People
could be mobilized for mass meetings and demonstrations when there was an important
issue. In comparison, today civil society seems to be out of touch with the population at
large, especially in the city. ‘Even though people are all angry about the same issue, they will not
Many interviewees expressed the view that people have lost trust in civil society because they
see how leaders use civil society as a springboard into politics. Once they are in politics they
forget their ideals and follow their personal interests. As someone said: ‘Once they are in
politics, they either disappear quickly, or they conform. Very few can resist the pressure.’ 58 It was
stressed that this is the case for civil society in general, not just women’s civil society.59
Instead, a different type of civil society has emerged which is much more organized around
NGOs. While some people speak critically of this trend, as they see this NGO-ism as donor-
dependent or dominated, as creating a dependency attitude among people (‘attentisme’), or
as self-interested. The different actors concerned with civil society amount to an impressive
number of engaged actors.
Asked whether a women’s movement exists, most interviewees are positive. They feel part
of a movement, or they observe there is a broad engagement. ‘I have been involved since
2005, and I really feel part of a movement. For me, the core is about the promotion of women’s
involvement in decision-making.’ 60 One recurring observation is that there is a movement,
which speaks one language and has a common cause.61
The cause of women is broadly promoted. For example, when asked about the role of donors,
some people make it clear that they think the donors (or locally present INGOs) are part
of the lutte pour les femmes, ‘some of them really work’.62 It has also been emphasised that
the women’s movement is broader than civil society or NGOs. Caucus des Femmes and
56 NGOF6, NGOF7 and others
61 GO1,GO2, NGOF9
62 GO2; also NGOF1
the other umbrella organisations represent women from NGOs, government, politics and
churches. This feature of the women’s movement is not considered equally positive by all.
Some ﬁnd it confusing and some interviewees want to make clear that they do not want to
be seen as part of civil society.63 This may also have to do with the fact that many people
associate the term civil society with the coordination bureau of civil society, that they may
not want to engage with.
Local embeddedness in Walungu
Several interviewees say that the real test of a women’s movement is in its local
embeddedness. The amount of local women’s organizations and associations in the
territoire is vast. In the centre of Walungu territoire there are a number of (previously)
internationally funded NGOs and quite a few signboards signal the presence of small
local women’s NGOs. During a women’s focus group, at least 20 organisations were
named that had activities for women in the area, mainly in the context of sexual violence.64
In the villages we visited there were multiple women’s associations. We visited the
villages because they had Comités d’Alerte pour la Paix, Clubs d’Écoute, or an association
connected to VICO. In addition, we found women involved in multiple other associations
(see also under 3.1). The women we interviewed all had a keen interest in women’s rights
and all had stories and examples of how they were able to claim their rights.
We were also impressed to ﬁnd that most women we spoke to in the villages were
‘cultivatrice’ (farmer). They were not part of the educated village elite, yet had been able
to gain some inﬂuence in the promotion of women’s rights through their association.
We also have many indications that the relation between NGOs in Bukavu and women’s
associations is two-way. While NGOs supply certain services, they are also responsive in
following up cases brought forward by local groups. Local groups also provide news items
for the radio programmes organized by AFEM. There was thus ample evidence of local
embeddedness of the women’s movement.
There are two provisos to this:
• We have spoken to core groups of women at the local level. We cannot say much about
the involvement of the ordinary members of the associations. There have been many
trainings involving members, as well as ongoing efforts to provide services to them,
such as literacy training and saving groups (MUSOs). Most of the participants in the two
literacy trainings we attended just started to be involved in the associations and learn
about their rights during the classes. Several interviewees mentioned that core members
provoke jealousy with the beneﬁts derived from their NGO contacts65 and it was often
mentioned that local women increasingly demand payment or other beneﬁts when they
• We have only visited one territoire, Walungu. In this territoire there were three villages in
two groupements where we were sure to ﬁnd activity we could interview about. There are
63 In particular some women from the churches.
64 Douma and Hilhorst, forthcoming.
65 NGOF8, NGOF1
several reasons why Walungu may be more advanced in terms of women organising than
other territoires of South Kivu:
• Walungu has seen many atrocities during the war, which led to women organising since the
• Walungu is relatively close to Bukavu and easy to reach for organisations.
• Walungu happens to be the place where many women leaders in Bukavu were born,
including the directors of all three NGOs central to our research: AFEM, RFDP and VICO.
The relations between associations and these leaders are close and the local women’s
associations often referred to the leaders by name, rather than by the name of the
organisation, when they talked about NGO support.
4.2 Level of Organisation
This dimension assesses the organisational development, complexity and sophistication of
civil society, by looking at the relationships among the actors within the civil society arena.
Based on the general indicators we have identiﬁed the following issues as pertinent to the
level of organisation: coordination, human and ﬁnancial capacities, internal governance,
communication and culture, self-regulation, partnerships with local institutions, and
international support structures and networking.
In the previous chapter, we described the co-ordination mechanisms that structure the
The Civil Society Bureau in South Kivu is considered by a number of interviewees to be
ineffective and politicised.66 An illustration of this concern was a scandal unfolding at the
time of our research. It was rumoured that the Director of the Bureau was given a car by the
President, because of his engagement in the national consultation (Concertation Cationale
2013) that civil society in South Kivu had decided to boycott because it was seen as part of the
President’s scheme to change the constitution to prolong his stay in ofﬁce. True or false, the
fact is that many interviewees were very angry about this.67
The ‘Composante Femme’ of the Bureau is seen more as a meeting place for exchange than
a coordinating body. The three members of the Composante, that form alliances of their own
(Caucus de Femmes, CAFCO and COFAS) are seen more as coordinating, although their roles
are confused because they also act as an NGO fundraising for its own activities rather than
promoting its members.
The women’s movement is also hampered by a number of issues:
• There is mistrust with women leaders that are thought to aspire to becoming a politician
or that are considered to be too close to politicians.68 Although the fact that a number of
women from these organisations have obtained political ofﬁce, including the former Director
of the Bureau who has become part of the Election Preparatory Committee (CENI), is
66 NGOM2, INGO1
67 NGOF4, NGOM1
68 NGOF4, NGOM1
considered a major achievement of the women’s movement, mistrust in her appointment
seemed to be strongly interwoven with this.
• There seems to be a certain competition about leadership, where initiatives may not be
accepted by other organisations or where organisations only want to join the initiative
when they can take part in the leadership.69
While none of the interviewees appeared to appreciate the coordination structures, they
emphasised that coordination works much better when it is done through campaigns. There
have been several successful campaigns where the women’s organisations work together.
These campaigns vary in the extent to which they are being supported or even initiated by
an international agency. The recently completed campaign Droit pour Tous (see Box 4) is
coordinated and ﬁnanced by Cordaid.70 The 30-50% campaign (see Box 3), on the other hand,
is an initiative of local women’s organisations who ﬁnance the campaign partly with funds of
their own organisation.
In Walungu, we found evidence of women’s organisations working together, in particular
AFEM and RFDP. Coordination structures seem to exist but appear to be mainly dormant.
Human and ﬁnancial capacities
Human and ﬁnancial capacities are an important dimension of civil society, and lots of
references were made to this in interviews.
There are many women NGOs and associations, but many of these have no access to
funding. It is estimated that at least 50% or as much as two thirds of the organisations
afﬁliated to the Composante Femme of the Coordination Bureau of Civil Society do not
have funding. ‘They have shrunk to 2 or 3 women’.71 In our group discussion with eight
representatives of CAFCO, we found that none of the NGOs represented had regular
funding, and this seemed typical for the entire membership. There seems a trend towards
reducing funding, as many of these ‘dry NGOs’ used to have funding in previous years. This
is attributed to the fact that development budgets are reducing internationally.72 Also, it may
be related to changes in the attention to sexual violence that used to provide resources to
numerous small agencies.73 Another reason may be that international donors increasingly
have partnerships with state agencies in DRC.
Organisations without funding may nonetheless continue working. With a core staff of one
or two, they hope to receive new funding and survive in the meantime on small jobs or other
activities. In our focus-sample, VICO was going through a period without funding. In the
territoire of Walungu, we had two interviews with local partners of VICO. In both cases, they
mentioned they continued to have regular visits by the VICO director. We also found traces of
VICO initiatives that had started in villages and ceased to operate, often many years prior to
69 NGOF4, INGO1, INGO2
70 Droit pour Tous was not exclusively by and for women, and focused on rights more broadly. Women’s rights to inheritance and land were
central to the campaign, as well as sexual violence.
72 GO4, NGOF9, NGOF10
73 INS3, see also Douma and Hilhorst, forthcoming.
Among the ‘dry’ organisations, we also found a tendency to change to a different line
of work. There is always a story about why it makes sense to shift, for example, from an
advocacy or micro-credit group to agriculture and food security, and why the organization
has the necessary capacities to do so. On the other hand, these also seem like attempts to
ﬁnd whatever funding is available. There are (anonymous) stories of how some organisations
offer to pay representatives of international organisations a share of the project money (up to
30%) when they ensure the organisation is granted a programme.74
Organizations that are well-established nonetheless have small ofﬁces and modest numbers
of staff. Funding agencies rarely allow structural capacity development. AFEM, for example,
has 12 staff members in Bukavu and one staff member in each of the 10 ﬁeld ofﬁces,
although it is not clear whether these are all being paid. In addition, the organisation has a
network of members that are employed for short-term contracts in the framework of speciﬁc
The gender division of the Ministry of Gender, Family and Children is well endowed
compared to other divisions, as it has many internationally-backed programmes. The division
has 15 staff in Bukavu and 43 in the territoires. Most of its work depends on donor-funding.
International NGOs and organisations usually have one gender coordinator.
With regard to human capacity, it is apparent that the numerous trainings have resulted in a
high level of awareness and knowledge on women’s rights, the law, treatment of victims, etc.
This is the case throughout the different levels of organisation: from Bukavu to the villages.
In addition, we found that donors increasingly invest in ﬁnancial management capacities.75
In Walungu, the reduced funding also affected civil society and we encountered several
groups in miniscule ofﬁces in Walungu centre hoping and waiting for funding opportunities.
The reduced levels of funding also result in a certain competition between Bukavu-based
NGOs and local organisations, with the latter complaining that the central NGOs retain
more money for themselves when the funding becomes restricted. Questions were also
raised about the reasons for the Bukavu-based NGOs not putting more effort into hiring
women from the territoire when vacancies came up, and why local volunteers were not given
Human capacity development, as stated, has resulted in a high level of awareness of
women’s rights. The question is how effective and efﬁcient this was. There were a number of
indications that there were too many seminars, that the content sometimes overlapped and
that people were tired of seminars.
A major development reported by some NGOs is that donors increasingly make demands on
(ﬁnancial) management and invest to some extent in capacity development to make NGOs
stronger partners.76 The result appears to be an increasing duality among the women’s
74 IO2, NGOF2
76 NGOF1, INGO1 BNGO4,
organisations. A number of agencies that have regular donors and are able to invest in their
professional capacities become stronger and are likely to attract further donors. On the
other side of the divide is a large number of agencies that have no funding and are thus not
included in initiatives to professionalise and are therefore increasingly unlikely to attract
substantial funding in the future.
With regard to the local associations we encountered in Walungu, we found that many
of them adhere to formal structures. They have a president, vice-president, treasurer and
secretary, hold elections and may have statutes.
Communication and culture
In general, interviewees reported that there is increasing collaboration within women’s civil
society and between women’s organisations and other sectors (especially government and
A very important issue here is that women’s rights and women’s leadership have become a
unifying language. This would allow collaboration across sectors and between different layers
of organization (from the city to the village).
On the other hand, the language of gender can also become divisive. Interviewees from the
religious sector in particular mentioned that they consider gender as part of the language of
donor agencies.77 These respondents prefer to address women’s rights within a framework
that recognises the complementarity between men and women.78 One respondent said they
had to be careful not to turn women hostile to men: ‘l’oiseau a deux ailes, si on coupe une aile,
il va tomber’ (‘A bird has two wings; when you cut one off it will fall’).79
There is a large involvement of men in the women’s organisations. The gender dimensions
within the organisations differ between the province and Walungu. At the provincial
level, women dominated leadership positions. Even though there are many men in these
organisations, they are generally considered female dominated. In Walungu, on the other
hand, we found that the salaried and leading staff member was male in a number of
organisations. At this level, societal gender relations seemed to be reproduced even in the
With respect to women’s leadership in NGOs without a speciﬁc gender focus, it seems there
are very few NGOs led by women.80
The indicator of self-regulation refers to codes of conduct and other mechanisms by which
civil society can hold itself and each other accountable to some commonly agreed values.
There are no formal mechanisms for such self-regulation in women’s civil society or civil
society more broadly. When we asked about the need for self-regulation, it was remarked that
self-regulation would be important especially for the work on responses to sexual violence.
‘I estimate that the majority of the NGOs claim to work on sexual violence, and it will be
77 INS2, RA1
80 Based on interviews for the evaluation of the broader development programme
important to regulate this ﬁeld. Now there is total autonomy and it would be good to have peer
International support structures and networking.
There are a number of UN agencies and INGOs that have speciﬁc programmes to reinforce
women’s organisations and promote women’s rights. These include UN Women, International
Alert, Search for Common Ground, International Medical Corps, Life and Peace Institute, ICCO,
Cordaid and Kvinna till Kvinna.
These international programmes appear to share very similar objectives. They have a strong
focus on women’s leadership. They usually differentiate between women’s representation in
politics and local women’s leadership through the strengthening of local associations.
They also seem to work to a large extent through the same local organisations.82 In some
cases, programmes are set up as a collaboration between different INGOs. Otherwise, INGO
representatives have no formal coordination. In December 2013 they organised a meeting for
INGOs with a gender programme which was the ﬁrst in several years.
In the past, several INGOs attempted to form networks among their local partners. Currently,
they are more inclined to form networks around speciﬁc campaigns. This is the case, for
example, with Cordaid and the Droit pour Tous campaign, and the leadership campaign of IMC
As the different agencies overlap, it is not surprising that they claim similar outcomes as the
result of their work. The fact that South Kivu now has 4 female ministers out of 10 after the last
cabinet reshufﬂe was mentioned as a programme result by several organisations.83
While a number of international organisations aim to strengthen women’s associations, they
do this mainly through the Bukavu-based NGOs. Representatives of the international NGOs
regularly visit the territoire and the association with the international NGOs, sometimes indirect,
is one of the elements adding some status and legitimation to the local women’s associations.
4.3 Practice of values
This dimension questions whether civil society actors live up to their own standards. Are they
themselves being the change they want to achieve?
Politics in civil society
There is a lot of talk about the political roles and ambitions of society actors. When asked what
happened after the successful mobilization around the turn of the century, one of the issues
raised was that prominent civil society actors assumed political ofﬁce and forgot about their
83 IO1, INGO2
There is a large distrust of women who use their civil society position as a launching
pad into politics. This leads to a contradiction. While many see the promotion of women
in politics as an important condition for promoting women’s rights, there is a general
expectation that women will forget their ideals, once they are in power. On the other hand,
women politicians explain that women have a hard job in politics and cannot achieve a lot
because they are being blocked by their party.84
Several interviewees remarked that this is not typical for women’s organisations but a
feature of civil society in general. Also, in acknowledgement of this issue, a number of
programmes are geared to sensitising and training women politicians.85
Our ﬁeldwork in Walungu was too brief to provide deep insights into the possible
politicisation of the women’s associations. The local associations in DRC are known to
be facing two ways. On the one hand, they are a mechanism for self-enhancement of the
leaders, who seem to have ‘ownership’ of associations, yet at the same time they do put a
lot of effort into promoting the objectives of their organisation, such as enhancing women’s
Equal opportunities in civil society
A number of interviewees mentioned that equal opportunities may be an issue in the
women’s movement. All women’s organisations seem to employ men, but there is a
concern that these organisations are seen to be dominated by women.
Employment in civil society
One of the issues that came up in Walungu, is the status of volunteers. While NGOs
celebrate the active engagement of local women in their organisations, some of these
women look differently at the situation. There are a number of women in Walungu who
consider it unfair that they are not given a job in the NGO, even though they spend a lot of
time working for it. They have the impression that provincial women are not being taken
into account when NGO positions come up.
The provision of sitting allowances
A related issue concerns the practices around sitting allowances. NGOs have taken on the
practice of paying local people for their presence in training activities. This practice stems
from the notion that people who spend the day in training cannot otherwise ﬁnd income
during that day. However, in later years it seems that the payment that some organisations
give is much higher than what somebody would gain for a day working in the ﬁeld. One of
the interviewees said his organisation paid $5-$10 every day to each of the participants of
seminars. Otherwise, people would refuse to take part in seminars: ‘People say that the
NGOs eat all the money themselves’ (Ils bouffent de l’argent). 87 Another NGO told us they
stopped given training because they could not afford to pay the increasing compensation.88
This issue was also raised in a number of focus groups, where key women of the
85 INGO4, IO1
86 Wagemaker, I. (2014) The Periphery Revisited. Understanding local urban governance in the context of rapid urban expansion and weak
state institutions in Kinshasa. PhD thesis, IOb, University of Antwerp, 152-156.
88 NGOF5, See also Wairimu, W, D. Hilhorst and I. Christoplos, forthcoming.
communities mentioned they found it difﬁcult to motivate people to attend training.
The increased expectation to be paid for activities is also seen by one of the interviewees as a
reason for the demise of mobilizing power of civil society. ‘In the early 2000s the NGOs, and
some churches, mobilized a lot of people. But now, for example in the last elections, many
people were upset, but there was no mass mobilisation. The problem of the sitting allowances
and transport diminishes the number of people that come to activities, in addition to other
problems like poverty’89 90
4.4 Perception of impact
This dimension of the CIVICUS index is the perception on the part of participants and
stakeholders of the impact of civil society. This is seen by interviewees as the following:
Different representation of women
Changes are being observed in the ways in which women are being represented by themselves
and their organisations. The image is moving away from the subservient customary woman on
the one hand and the victimised woman evoked by the sexual violence responses on the other.
Increasingly, women assert their various rights and show leadership.
Women have a voice
Gradually, women are acquiring a voice. There are many provisos: interviewees remark that
women fall silent in the presence of men yet there is a general feeling that this is changing
and that women increasingly speak out for themselves whether in political parties or village
meetings. ‘Women are determined and really engaged; they are now free. Before they did not
dare to talk, but now they dare more.’91
Women gain inﬂuence
In the communities of Walungu, women’s associations have grown strong. They represent
women from all layers of village society and they gain inﬂuence in their communities. This
inﬂuence is partly derived from the backing they receive from NGOs, which may lend them a
certain status. The associations give women space to develop leadership skills and gain dignity
as community members. Because women combine different positions, the leaders become
‘women of inﬂuence’.
One remarkable story that came up in Kaniola is that women who are divorced or live with a
man without being married – which is very frequently the case due to the war – are banned from
having positions in the Cirika or the choir of the church. Women who could not be active in the
church found a place in the associations to be active. We were not able to conﬁrm if this was
generally the case, or only in this particular village.
At the provincial level of South Kivu, there have recently been a number of appointments of
women in political and high administrative positions.92
90 Note that this issue is not only related to development organisations, as politicians apparently also increasingly provide small payments and gifts
to their constituency.
92 Notably the appointment of 4 women Ministers (of a total 10) in the new Provincial government in June 2013, http://observatoiredelaparite.org/
Women assert their rights
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that women have started to assert their rights. We came
across stories of women who successfully claimed the land they were entitled to through
inheritance93 and of abandoned women who manage to have their husbands forced to pay
for their children. Increasingly, systems are in place to follow up individual cases of women
who want to assert their rights. Even though the systems are based in communities through
associations, they heavily depend on the support of subsidised NGOs that can provide
Women advocate for their rights
The follow-up of individual cases, and the fact that these are being talked about, is also a form
of advocacy. The actual successful cases may be very small dots on the horizon but they have
a strong impact because these anecdotes are being told in many places and are the subject
of many radio programmes which contribute to spreading a new message. There is also
advocacy for representation of women in government and politics and there is some advocacy
for legal reform, especially the code familiale.
The advocacy function is strongly enabled by the close collaboration of women’s
organisations and the media.
Even though the mobilising power of civil society is observed to be much less than in the
past, there are occasions when women take to the streets to claim their social and political
space, notably on Women’s Day (March 8) and V-day (One billion rising, February 14).94
There is a women’s movement
Everybody agrees that there is women’s movement in South Kivu. Although there are many
critical remarks about its direction, coordination, and sometimes even motivation, the
many initiatives from local women’s associations, women’s NGOs, the government and the
international community come together into a movement that speaks a new language on
gender relations in DRC.
4.5 External dimension, or the larger picture
The external dimension can be divided into social-cultural, socio-institutional, and socio-
political factors. It is important to take this into account, because the civil society agenda
largely comes about in response to these factors, because the room for manoeuvre for civil
society and its possible impact is largely determined by this dimension, and because we
can ﬁnd there many explanations of the characteristics of civil society. Civil society, after all,
is part of society and is largely shaped by this so-called external dimension. We follow the
terminology of CIVICUS, but note that this dimension would more aptly be labelled the larger
picture, in consideration of the fact that it is not external to civil society.
93 These stories look like each other and it is not possible to estimate how many real cases of inheritance have been resolved. We have spoken to
one woman who herself did successfully claim her inheritance.
Socio-cultural factors: gender relations
Gender relations are crucial for the women’s movement, they form its raison-d-être and the
ultimate objective is to render gender relations more equal.
Customary gender relations are deeply ingrained in society, and institutions around gender
are known to have a very strong ordering capacity, are reproduced through everyday social
life, and are very difﬁcult to change.
Traditional gender relations are also a major obstacle for women seeking to assert their
rights and organise themselves. This is, amongst others, apparent in the critiques that
women leaders may receive. In interviews, several references were made – by men – to the
personal choices of women leaders. It was stated, for example, that women’s organisations
discredited themselves because they were led by women who were not properly married.95
Several interviewed women related personal stories about how they were being criticised,
insulted and even threatened because of the work they do.
Religious institutions are show two facets. On the one hand, they are seen to play a positive
role in promoting respect for women and to provide space for women to develop their skills.
On the other hand, by emphasising the complementarity between men and women, they
are seen to reinforce the power differentials between men and women. We heard several
examples of how the Catholic Church obliged NGOs to remove references to women’s
reproductive rights in education.
Traditional institutions, in particular the system of traditional leadership of Mwami (kings)
and chefs are usually seen as a major barrier to the status of women. Customary practice
does not allow women to inherit, does not protect women who are being abandoned by their
husband, and condones early marriage from the age of 12 onwards. However, there are also
changes visible in these institutions. Mwamis and chefs are increasingly better educated and
are always involved in NGO training, and hence may be open to change.96 At the same time,
the traditions are part of society, and continue to dominate gender relations, as stated above.
There is a strong symbolism in the leadership of some women who take over the kingdom
when their son is too young to assume his title. A lot of reference was made to these so-
called Mwami Kazi (king’s mothers), with the late Mwami Kazi Astrid ﬁguring as a legendary
woman of benevolent power and inﬂuence. In one of the communities, Burhale, a training
centre for women built with the support of Cordaid, was named after her: Maison Astrid.
The women’s movement also ﬁnds some inspiration in stories about the pre-colonial
situation of women in DRC, with some interesting examples of women as founders of
empires or as combatants, especially in the Kuba, Luba and Lunda tribes where women
played an important role and still have matrilinear inheritance. Women were considered
as pillars of the kingdoms and strong contributors to their development, prosperity and
On the positive side we can also point to the rich associational life in communities in
Congo. The women’s associations that are formed as part of the women’s movement build
on this tradition. There are many different associations in communities, ranging from
associations connected to the church to associations of farmers and other groups. Women
we encountered were often part of multiple associations.
The distinction between social-institutional and socio-political factors is gradual. Traditional
leaders and churches are also governance actors. Traditional leaders have formal political
roles, and the churches have important roles in the governance of services, particularly health
and education. These have been discussed in the section above so we will limit ourselves
here to the state and the international community.
The state, and the governance culture of personalised and highly commoditized service
relations, has an impact on everything in civil society, including the women’s movement.
Civil society has to deal with and respond to this governance culture, and has to some extent
The government is also seen to provide space for the promotion of women’s rights. In the
case of inheritance, for example, the modern state law is much more favourable for women
than traditional practice. Nonetheless, the legal status of women still needs to be improved,
in particular the family law.
The government appears to have invested in a strong capacity for gender issues. However, as
the Division of Gender largely depends on external funding the question remains about the
commitment of the government towards gender issues.
The international community is an important factor in the governance of gender policy in
DRC. This will be dealt with in the next chapter.
This chapter analysed the women’s movement of South Kivu – in particular the NGOs in
Bukavu and the associations in Walungu territoire – on the basis of the ﬁve dimensions of
civil society developed by CIVICUS. The next chapter will draw some conclusions on the basis
of this analysis.
Analysis and conclusion
In this chapter, we will bring together the ﬁndings for the main concerns of the report:
strengthening of women’s civil society, strengthening local associations, and lobbying and
advocacy. We will also provide some general conclusions about women’s civil society.
5.1 The role of the international community in civil society
The role of the international community in social, economic and political work in the region
is great, and in the case of the women’s movement perhaps even greater. The international
attention to gender issues has been triggered by the high level of conﬂict-related sexual
violence. The 2006 law on sexual violence, for example, has largely come about under
pressure from, and with the assistance of, the international community. In the last few years,
the attention to gender issues has broadened to incorporate gender norms, rights, women’s
leadership and other pertinent concerns of women.97 Behind all programmes and most of the
campaigns, we ﬁnd international agencies not only in the role of funder, but also in roles of
co-initiator, co-shaper and facilitator.
Although this has many positive sides, interview excerpts and observations also point to
negative side effects including:
• The NGO-isation of the women’s movement may have come at the cost of social
mobilisation. The inﬂated use of sitting allowances is one of the contributing factors to
• The impression that the women’s movement is being internationally steered, which may
affect the legitimacy of the messages.
• The service-orientation of the international community which may have diverted attention
away from addressing the politics of poverty, instability and governance that underlie
many problems that women face.
• The fragmented and largely uncoordinated nature of aid agencies’ work which may
have contributed to the equally fragmented and uncoordinated nature of women’s
Civil society is almost completely dependent on foreign. NGOs derive their funding almost
exclusively from foreign funding. Their own initiatives are indirectly derived from this funding
which allows them a certain institutional lee-way. Local associations are not directly funded,
97 See also Douma and Hilhorst forthcoming
but depend for their operations, seminars, transport and accompaniment on funded NGOs.
In the immediate future, the continuation of the women’s movement requires that the
international community continues to recognise and support the role of NGOs in promoting
An important question raised in evaluations is the question of attribution. When we see
changes in direction called for in a programme, how can we know that these changes have
been implemented? In the case of strengthening civil society, it is impossible to attribute
the effects of strengthening to a single programme. For this reason, the evaluation of the
Netherlands development programme focuses on ‘contributions’. Have programmes
contributed to change? How important have they been for this change?
Even the question of contribution is not easy to answer for individual organisations. Some
indicators of contributions by international organisations are:
• The number of organisations that have been highly instrumental in women’s civil society
have derived part of their ﬁnancing from Netherlands-based organisations.
• The number of international organisations, amongst them Cordaid and ICCO, which
have invested heavily in improving the management capacity of their partners. Positive
effects of these investments have been mentioned several times in interviews, without
• As we have seen, campaigns have the effect of strengthening civil society. In that sense, it
is possible to say, for example, that Cordaid, by facilitating the Droit pour Tous campaign
has strengthened civil society.98 This campaign is particularly powerful because it
reached out to the communities where it may have had some impact on local women’s
associations’ capacities to promote women’s rights.
5.2 Strengthening local associations
The ﬁndings of local associations are based on ﬁeldwork in the territoire of Walungu, and
additional research would be required to know if these ﬁndings also apply to other territoires.
Most civil society organisations work with local ‘nodes’ – les noyaux. There is sometimes a
suggestion that women’s civil society is concentrated in Bukavu, and that there is no real
connection to the communities.99 We do not agree with this suggestion, as we have seen a
lot of evidence in the Walungu territoire of very active, knowledgeable and capable women’s
There is a tendency among Bukavu-based NGOs to claim women’s associational activity in
the communities as an outcome of their work. This is clear in the use of the term ‘noyaux’,
suggesting it concerns an association set up by the NGO. This doesn’t do justice to the
tradition of associations in communities and the initiatives taken within the communities.
The multiple and overlapping associations result in some key women leaders that have
98 Note, however, that this campaign was not ﬁnanced by under the MFS II grants, hence can be seen as a contribution of Cordaid, but not MFS
99 IO3, NGOM1
multiple positions and become ‘women of inﬂuence’. This is especially remarkable as a
number of these are found among farmers, rather than educated women.
Although there is a big overlap in the agenda and methods of NGOs and local associations,
we see some diverging trends where local associations pay more attention to leadership than
to ofﬁcial representation of women in political positions and where local groups do not speak
of UN resolution 1325.
There are tensions about the support given by NGOs to the local associations. These are in
• Tensions about remuneration; local women would like to get more of the funds of the
• Mismatches in agenda; while the NGOs mainly offered seminars and awareness raising,
coupled with the follow-up of individual cases, local groups are also interested in socio-
5.3 Lobbying and advocacy
None of the people we interviewed made a distinction between lobbying and advocacy. They
all speak of the general term ‘plaidoyer’. Local women often use the term ‘plaidoyer’, when
they refer to fundraising. They do advocacy to ﬁnd partners who will fund their programme.
There are two approaches to advocacy: advocacy grounded in service delivery, and advocacy
through special activities.
The ﬁrst approach concerns advocacy as a spin-off from service-oriented programmes. It is
grounded in the follow-up of individual cases where women assert their rights. When local
associations or Bukavu-based NGOs follow up such cases, this is usually accompanied by
training, lobbying authorities and media attention. This appears to be a strong method of
advocacy, as it serves as a constant reminder of what women’s rights are. For this type of
advocacy, it is important to note that advocacy activities are grounded in practice of service
The second approach is based on the campaigns to inﬂuence peace processes or elections,
to change a law, or bring about changes in government and practice. We have come across
a number of campaigns that have been quite successful, such as the 30-50% campaign to
advocate more women in politics and high government positions, and the Droit pour Tous
campaign. These campaigns have an impact at different levels. Apart from achieving results
with regard to the objective of the campaign, they have become important and effective
in forging collaboration between different organisations, and they have added depth and
content to relations between funding agencies (INGOs) and NGOs.
UN resolution 1325 is used by a number of organisations as the framework for their work in
promoting women’s rights. The Division de Genre of the provincial government and several
NGOs aim to bring about awareness about the resolution. They seem to take knowledge of
the resolution as the hallmark of success. The resolution was often brought up in interviews
In the territoire of Walungu, on the other hand, we never heard any reference to the
resolution. However, when we take the important aspects of the resolution, which include
more attention to the effects of conﬂict on women, the recognition of women’s leadership
qualities, and involvement of women in peace processes, one can see that all these issues
resonate at a local level in all kinds of activities. In practice, therefore, we see lots of evidence
that women’s associations work in the spirit of the resolution, and the question arises as to
whether it is important that women in the communities know about the resolution as such.
Advocacy is something that people in DRC do. We have not come across explicit theories
about advocacy or explicit planning of advocacy, except in some projects that are especially
geared to achieve advocacy objectives. We also found that INGO representatives working
on advocacy may not have a clear idea about how advocacy depends on the linkages
between people, organisations and activities. INGOs have a tendency to think in terms of
projects with clear objectives and partners. As a result, we came across instances where the
representative of an INGO would not consider a project as part of her advocacy campaign,
because it was ﬁnanced from another source, even though there were clear linkages between
the project and her agency’s advocacy campaign. The new project could have easily been
framed as the successful outcome of advocacy, but was seen as belonging to a different silo.
We found that INGO representatives do not often make reference to the bigger advocacy
picture and do not position their project in a wider agenda of advocacy that incorporates a
larger range of actors.
5.4 General conclusions
Women’s civil society in South Kivu consists of many small initiatives and relatively small
projects. Nonetheless, they add up to the women’s movement whose agenda – promoting
women’s representation and women’s rights – has been adopted by politicians and
government, and are well-known among other sectors of civil society and to some extent the
population at large.
In addition, we ﬁnd many NGOs which do not have an explicit gender proﬁle to have
women’s divisions or gender programmes. Many of these have originated in a programme
responding to sexual violence and have evolved into a broader programme aimed at
strengthening women’s associations, or incorporating women in general programmes. On
the other hand, there are also many NGOs that work in a speciﬁc domain such as agricultural
or credit associations that have not explicitly adopted a gender approach. Gender often
seems to be treated as a separate sector and mainstreaming of gender has not systematically
We found a number of strongly negative or derisive opinions about women’s civil society.
There are several misgivings about women’s civil society that our research partly disproves.
Misgiving 1: ‘Women’s civil society used to be much stronger at the time of war’
Several people have told us that the mobilising power of civil society has strongly decreased.
On the other hand, we found evidence that the number of activities, local associations, the
knowledge about women’s rights in society and actual cases that have been followed up has
steadily grown since the war.
Misgiving 2: ‘Women’s organisations only ﬁght amongst themselves’
Again, this is a misgiving that appeared in several interviews. Although we found some
evidence of conﬂict and competition, we also found evidence of collaboration. Collaboration
happens especially through campaigns and several women stressed that having a common
language of gender and women’s rights unites them and helps them to overcome problems.
Misgiving 3: ‘Women leaders only use their position as a springboard to political
ofﬁce. Once they are in political ofﬁce they forget about origins’
This issue has often been mentioned, also by women that are very active in women’s
civil society. On the other hand, several people explained that this problem is not speciﬁc
to women’s civil society, but experienced by civil society in general. It is problematic for
women’s civil society, because it contradicts a major theory of change which stipulates that
if only there were more women in power, women’s position would change. To resolve this
contradiction, several programmes have started to train and accompany women politicians.
5.5 Tentative recommendations
This report was commissioned as part of a three-year evaluation of Dutch development
aid. Preliminary ﬁndings were validated in a meeting with 11 representatives of women’s
organisations and other (I)NGOs.100 The Final Report will be presented and validated
in a meeting at the beginning of 2015. The following recommendations to the women’s
organisations and their support structures are tentative, as one of the aims of this feedback
workshop will be to jointly formulate recommendations.
• Invest in more systematically documenting the history and achievements of women’s civil
• Continue to use campaigns to enhance the collaboration between women’s organisations.
• Continue and strengthen the linkages between service delivery at the same time asserting
women’s rights and raising awareness and media attention for these rights.
• Develop a more systematic approach to advocacy. Make sure that advocacy projects link
up with a broader agenda and with the wider network of organisations aiming to achieve
• Invest in more knowledge about the positive and negative dynamics of associational
life and power relations at community level, in order to enhance the work of promoting
• Evaluate the practice of inﬂated sitting allowances (des motivations) and try to develop a
joint policy for dealing with this issue.
• Consider how gender can be mainstreamed, especially in socio-economic projects.
100 November 27, 2013, at the ofﬁce of Cordaid Bukavu
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List of interviewees
Name NGO Organisation / Institution Position
11-11 Wilhelmine Ntakebuka VICO Coordinator *
12-11 Safari Bagula IFDP Coordinator
12-11 Venantie Bisimwa RFDP Executive secretary
13-11 Marie Migani Composant Femme Sociéte Civil Coordinator. Also Director of CAPSA
(centre d’appui à la promotion de la
13-11 Marie Rose Shakalira AFESODD, action des femmes
solidaires pour le droit et le dev’t
Coordinator in Mwenga
13-11 Esperence Mawazo Observatoire de la parité Coordinator
Benjamen Bahati Observatoire de la parité Programme ofﬁcer
14-11 Chouchou Namegabe AFEM Coordinator
15-11 Solange Lwashiga CAUCUS des femmes Executive secretary of CAUCUS
16-11 Gisèle Balegamire CAFCO President
20-11 Etienne Chizungu CAMPS Centre d’assistance m
20-11 Management team VOVOLIB Walungu
04-12 Mathilde Muhindo Centre Olame Director
03-12 Eugenie Barhaluga
ICCO Programme ofﬁcer gender/women
03-12 Tamara Akinyi Obonyo
Virginie A. Tanou
IMC International Medical Corps Programme coordinator
Women in Leadership manager
05-12 Bertin Bisimwa International Alert
11-12 Deodatte Chishibanji CORDAID Programme ofﬁcer Droit pour Tous
and Women Leadership
Mamadou Sylla CORDAID Head of Administration and
Finances (now team leader of
Olivier Chibashimba CORDAID Programme ofﬁcer Performance-based
12-12 Annie Buraka Search for Common Ground Coordinator
14-11 Albert Mirindi MONUSCO section genre
15-11 Deo Bahizire UNFPA
03-12 Fidel Buhendwa
ONU Femmes National Program Ofﬁcer
* ‘Coordinator’ is the translation of ‘coordinateur’, which refers to the chief executive of the organisation
Name NGO Organisation / Institution Position
15-11 Jacqueline Ngengele CD genre Sk
15-11 Kinja Mwendanga
Assemblée Provinciale Circonscr. Bukavu /questeur
13-11 Mawazo Esperence Réseau des femmes des parties
02-12 Colette Mikila ex Ministre des Mines
19-11 Nzigire AFEM Walungu Volunteer Walungu Centre
RFDP Field worker
CAMPS Legal adviser
Francoise Cizungu VICO Volunteer
20-11 Yvette Kitumaine AFEM Walungu Coordinator
Victorine AFEM Walungu Volunteer Izege
Adelaide AFEM Walungu Volunteer
20-11 Curé Paroisse de Walungu Priest
20-11 Laurence Cishugi Paroisse de Walungu Coordinator of nodes of women lead-
20-11 René Nkemba Hopital général de Walungu Medical doctor – Director
04-12 Mama Kinja Business woman
11-05 Nynke Douma Independent Consultant
The CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI)
The civil society index distinguishes 5 dimensions:
1. Civic Engagement
Or ‘active citizenship’ describes the formal and informal activities and participation
undertaken by individuals to advance shared interests at different levels. Participation within
civil society is multi-faceted and encompasses socially-based and politically-based forms of
2. Level of Organisation
This dimension assesses the organisational development, complexity and sophistication of
civil society, by looking at the relationships among the actors within the civil society arena.
Key sub dimensions are:
• Internal governance of Civil Society Organisations
• Support infrastructure, that is about the existence of supporting federations or umbrella
• Self-regulation, which is about for instance the existence of shared codes of conducts
amongst Civil Society Organisations and other existing self-regulatory mechanisms.
• Peer-to-peer communication and cooperation: networking, information sharing and
alliance building to assess the extent of linkages and productive relations among civil
• Human resources, that is about the sustainability and adequacy of human resources
available for CSOs in order to achieve their objectives.
· Financial and technological resources available at CSOs to achieve their objectives.
· International linkages, such as CSO’s membership in international networks and
participation in global events.
3. Practice of Values
This dimension assesses the internal practice of values within the civil society arena.
CIVICUS identiﬁed some key values that are deemed crucial to gauge not only
progressiveness but also the extent to which civil society’s practices are coherent with their
ideals. These are:
• Democratic decision-making governance: how decisions are made within CSOs and by
• Labour regulations: includes the existence of policies regarding equal opportunities,
staff membership in labour unions, training in labour rights for new staff and a publicly
available statement on labour standards.
• Code of conduct and transparency: measures whether a code of conduct exists and is
available publicly. It also measures whether the CSO’s ﬁnancial information is available to
• Environmental standards: examines the extent to which CSOs adopt policies upholding
environmental standards of operation.
• Perception of values and within civil society: looks at how CSOs perceive the practice of
values, such as non-violence. This includes the existence or absence of forces within
civil society that use violence, aggression, hostility, brutality and/or ﬁghting, tolerance,
democracy, transparency, trustworthiness and tolerance in the civil society within which
4. Perception of Impact
This is about the perceived impact of civil society actors on politics and society as a whole
as the consequences of collective action. In this, the perception of both civil society actors
(internal) as actors outside civil society (outsiders) is taken into account. Speciﬁc sub
• Responsiveness in terms of civil society’s impact on the most important social
concerns within the country. ‘Responsive’ types of civil society are effectively taking up
and voicing societal concerns.
• Social impact measures civil society’s impact on society in general. An essential role of
civil society is its contribution to meet pressing societal needs.
• Policy impact: covers civil society’s impact on policy in general. It also looks at the
impact of CSO activism on selected policy issues
• Impact on attitudes: includes trust, public spiritedness and tolerance. The
subdimensions reﬂect a set of universally accepted social and political norms. These
are drawn, for example, from sources such as the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, as well as CIVICUS’ own core values. This dimension measures the extent to
which these values are practised within civil society, compared to the extent to which
they are practised in society at large.
5. Context Dimension: External Environment.
It is crucial to give consideration to the social, political and economic environments in
which it exists, as the environment both directly and indirectly affects civil society. Some
features of the environment may enable the growth of civil society. Conversely, other
features of the environment hamper the development of civil society. Three elements of
the external environment are captured by the CSI:
• Socio-economic context: The Social Watch’s basic capabilities index and measures of
corruption, inequality and macro-economic health are used portray the socioeconomic
context that can have marked consequences for civil society, and perhaps most
signiﬁcantly at the lower levels of social development.
• Socio-political context: This is assessed using ﬁve indicators. Three of these are
adapted from the Freedom House indices of political and civil rights and freedoms,
including political rights and freedoms, personal rights and freedoms within the law
and associational and organisational rights and freedoms. Information about CSO
experience with the country’s legal framework and state effectiveness round out the
picture of the socio-political context.
• Socio-cultural context: utilises interpersonal trust, which examines the level of
trust hat ordinary people feel for other ordinary people, as a broad measure of the
social psychological climate for association and cooperation. Even though everyone
experiences relationships of varying trust and distrust with different people, this
measure provides a simple indication of the prevalence of a world view that can
support and strengthen civil society. Similarly, the extent of tolerance and public
spiritedness also offers indication of the context in which civil society unfolds.
Source: Centre for Development Innovation (2012). Operational guidelines for Ethiopia, India, and Indonesia.
Unpublished MFS II evaluation working document.
The Special Chair Humanitarian Aid and Reconstruction focuses on the everyday politics and practices of service
delivery, livelihoods and disaster risk reduction in the institutional landscapes of conﬂict- or disaster-affected areas.
It engages in multi-sited qualitative and quantitative research. Research of Humanitarian Aid and Reconstruction is
collaborative, interacting with policy and practice throughout the process to enhance research uptake.
Occasional Paper #1
Human Security and Capacity in Fragile States: A scoping
Ian Christoplos and Dorothea Hilhorst, 2009
Occasional Paper #2
Fond de Commerce? Sexual Violence Assistance in the
Democratic Republic of Congo
Nynke Douma and Dorothea Hilhorst, 2012
Occasional Paper #3
Fond de Commerce? Assistance aux victimes de violences
sexuelles en République Démocratique du Congo
Nynke Douma and Dorothea Hilhorst, 2012
Occasional Paper #4
From Gardens to Markets: A Madam Sara perspective
Talitha Stam, 2013
Occasional Paper #5
Including conﬂict-affected producers in agri-food chains:
Honey Business in Northern Uganda
Sarah Drost, Diederik de Boer and Jeroen van Wijk, 2013
Occasional Paper #6
State and Non-State Institutions in Conﬂict-Affected
Societies: Who do people turn to for human security?
Gemma van der Haar, 2013
Occasional Paper #7
Land governance as an avenue for local state building in
eastern DRC (also in French)
Mathijs van Leeuwen and Gemma van der Haar, 2014
Occasional Paper #8
Shedding light on a Blind Spot: Incorporating labor
constraints and labor productivity in the planning and
evaluation of agricultural interventions
Timo Gaasbeek en Roelof van Til, 2014
Occasional Paper #9
Rethinking ‘entrepreneurship’ in fragile environments:
Lessons learnt in Somali women’s enterprise, human security
Holly A. Ritchie, 2014
Occasional Paper #10
Policy Review: International and Dutch policies in the ﬁeld of
socio-economic development in fragile settings
Anette Hoffmann, 2014
Occasional Papers Series