Women’s Rights in the DRC

Posted: April 11, 2013 in Congo

by Natalie Bush

This past week, we have been reading excerpts pertaining to Women’s Rights. Thus, for my blog this week, I wanted to explore the rights of women in the DRC. Dubbed by some as “the rape capital of the world,” the women of the DRC, as with most third world countries, do not receive the rights they so rightfully deserve.

To start, the way a woman is treated in Congo reflects on her racial background and immediate environment. For example, some argue lower-class urban women enjoy fewer freedoms than rural women (Every Culture). This occurs because women living in the cities are more dependent on their husbands for their livelihoods while women living in rural lands find independence through gardening, cooking and making small crafts for sale.

However, women living in one of the major cities of Congo, like Kinshasa, are more able to form groups that challenge male superiority. In urban cities, they are able to band together with each other to resist unfair treatment. One of the acts they have conducted in Kinshasa is organizing prayer groups to mobilize efforts to remove Mobutu (Every Culture). These women play a prominent role in challenging traditional roles of authority and working toward equality.

From a statistical standpoint, 61.2% of Congolese women live underneath the poverty threshold against 51.3% of men, according to a 2010 study (Peace Women). In the government, an even more alarming number was found in the study. Women comprise less than 9% of the government in the DRC (NATO). To help put this in perspective, in the United States currently 16% of seats in Congress alone are held by women. This ranks America as #69 among countries with the highest percentage of women working in the government (SouthernCT).

As noted earlier, women in underdeveloped countries face worse conditions. For example, in Congo women are regarded lower than males on the scale of social hierarchy. Unlike America, there is a high degree of societal pressure places upon young women to marry. Those who do not marry in Congolese culture are assumed to be prostitutes regardless of her professional status (Every Culture).

Several factors play important parts in contributing to this reality. Lack of financial resources and education are two of the largest contributors. I could write an entire post on the additional variables that play into account but I would rather focus on what we can do to make a change.

As noted in Half the Sky, educating girls and providing them with jobs is a step in the right direction to close the gender gap. By empowering women, they are able to become more independent by taking control of their lives and gaining a voice. In the United States, exposing Americans, especially students, to life abroad the comfort of our borders can broaden their perspective and ultimately provide them with a platform to better enrich their cultural understandings.

Sources:

Every Culture

Peace Women

NATO

SouthernCT

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