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International Women’s Day celebrated in Goma

Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 18 March 2011. Huguette Saliki is one of the Hundreds of women and girls who paraded on 8 March on the main avenue of Goma, North Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, to celebrate the International Women’s Day. Clad in colourful African attire, women paraded on the rhythm of bands playing.  “International Women’s Day helps women know their rights, know what to do with such rights and let everybody know that they have those rights” says Huguette at the end of the parade.
In eastern DRC, International Women’s Day is also used for the struggle against gender-based violence, which has defined the conflict in eastern DRC for years. In 2010, UNICEF and partners assisted nearly 17,000 survivors of sexual violence, including some 9,000 children.  Meanwhile, 14,000 new cases were reported to UNFPA across the country, 65% of which were registered in the eastern provinces of Maniema, Province Orientale, South Kivu and North Kivu. According to Marie Therese Sebagenzi, Head of the Gender Division/North Kivu, North Kivu province has one of the highest rates of sexual violence in the country, and takes lots of efforts to reverse the tendency.
With the IWD, women have the opportunity to launch an to appeal to DRC authorities and the international community for more efforts to enforcing women’s rights and protection. Along with children, women are the main victims of continuing conflicts in eastern DRC. UNICEF staff in Goma joined the march to contribute defend women’s rights in the east. “ I identify myself to this cause as a woman and as a staff of UNICEF who fights to defend women’s rights across the world” says Marie Le Duc, UNICEF staff in Goma/DRC.
In the DRC, UNICEF protects children and makes daily efforts to empower women. Through different programmes, boys, as well as girls are given the opportunity to know their rights and to vulgarize them among their communities. With UNICEF’ support, Goma Children’s Parliament is a well-established institution that defends human rights. Huguette Saliki, who is the gender promotion officer at the Children’s Parliament, reckons women’s situation has improved over the years. “In the past, women were marginalized. But as time goes by, and with International Women’s Day celebrations, they are allowed to participate in the decision-making” Saliki clarifies.
To end the celebration, Congolese women and women from Rwanda met at the border to build the bridge of peace, an initiative of the NGO Women for women. Two parts of the same banner that reads ‘women are building bridges’ were brought from DRC and Rwanda and tied together again, to symbolically bring back peace in the region.(By Ndiaga SECK)



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