Francine Kasimba grew up surrounded by eight sisters in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite having so many siblings, she was always told her mother did not have any children. The reason? Only boys mattered. Today Francine, age 17, is the chairwoman of our partner organisation CEDEJ-GL’s youth division in Uvira.
CEDEJ-GL works in different ways to strengthen women’s rights in the DRC. The organisation runs discussion groups as a forum for people to talk about issues that concern them. Both women and men are welcome to join, and there are even specific youth groups. Besides these discussion groups, CEDEJ-GL also uses theatre to raise awareness of gender roles.
Francine was active in one of these youth groups. By talking to others of her own age, she gained more self-confidence. After a while, she got a job at CEDEJ-GL. Today, she is chairwoman of the organisation’s youth group in Uvira city, in conflict-affected eastern DRC. The discussion groups offer people space to talk about their problems and needs; Francince helps the participants find solutions to them.
Now, Francine knows she has the power to go far – despite being told all her life that girls have no worth.
– Happiness for me is speaking out and standing up for myself. I show that I am a girl, that I have ideas and that I am talented, she says.
Something Francine has focused on in the discussion groups she has led, is sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). She has chosen to take up how unwanted teenage pregnancies can be prevented through birth control, something which has been discussed a great deal in CEDEJ-GL’s youth groups.
CEDEJ-GL has also worked with SRHR in other ways. In the DRC, sexual violence in schools is a major problem. To combat this, the organisation has started discussion groups in schools, which students can turn to for support. CEDEJ-GL has also educated teachers about women’s human rights and ensured teachers who abuse students get suspended.