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The Fight Against Gender-based Violence Online in Africa is not a Fight Between Men and Women: Lessons on Human Rights From #FIFAfrica18

By Blaise Ndola

My participation in each edition of the Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa (FIFAfrica) has always been a learning curve in understanding certain issues and topics related to Internet Freedoms in Africa. For the 2018 forum, which was held in Accra, Ghana on September 26-28, I was more interested in participating in discussions and debate on equality and non-discrimination, with a focus on gender-based violence (GBV)

On the issue of the existence of GBV online in Africa, I was delighted to see almost all participants and panelists agree on the prevalence of this phenomenon on the African web. 

Victims response to GBV online

I was surprised to learn that in Africa, like in other parts of the world, the reactions of women victims of online GBV were the same. The most common being to ignore or block the perpetrators – a response that encourages impunity and more abuse. Some justify this reaction to religion, cultural norms or by the desire “not to embarrass loved ones”.

The absence of adequate laws and policies to combat this phenomenon

The gap in denouncing of abuses is a reflection of the absence of legal provisions criminalizing gender-based violence online in Africa. In my country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, there is no law or policy against stalking, revenge pornography or harassment online. This situation also discourages victims from reporting abuses knowing that no satisfactory action will be taken by law enforcement authorities. It is therefore necessary to continue advocacy work for the implementation of laws to protect vulnerable users such as women and children in Africa, while also undertaking sensitization efforts on safe and secure use of the internet and avenues for support for victims of GBV online.

Is GBV online a case of women vs. men?

It is this point that has effectively transformed my approach to GBV online and I hope this has been the case for other participants. With the current trend towards aligning GBV into a fight between men and women, it was important to highlight the issue of proportionality. There are indeed some men who experience online harassment that can be likened to GBV, but the number is insignificant compared to that of women and girl’s victims. The rise of this trend is causing some men to become reticent or hostile in the fight against GBV online leaving women to fight alone.

Going forward, we will work to integrate more men into Rudi International’s advocacy work for women and girl’s empowerment through ICT.

I would like to thank CIPESA and its partners for facilitating my participation at FIFAfric18. The notions learned, the elements of reflection acquired as well as the contacts made at all Forums participated in continue to serve us well in our work.

Renew Hope: The Women Are Getting Ready for Their Final Exams And Graduation

We started the current sewing class in February 2018, which is the third group of women that were trained as part of our Sewing Project. We are thankful to God for this progress and for the partnership of our sister organization, Linked Through Love Foundation, which has been with us since the beginning.

From our first group, Fifi is now Assistant Trainer (after her training, she spent a year as intern) and is supporting the main trainer, Passy, in providing guidance and teaching the class that is ending their training program today. From the second class, Philo, Gloire (who recently got married), and Chantal are now interning, having the opportunity to better their skills. These are some of our success stories in this program.

The ladies are getting ready for their jury that will happen this week where they will have the opportunity to test their skills by randomly choosing among up to 10 lessons (10 items) they went studied for the past 10 months, an item they will have to sew and present as final test.

The random selection of items

The choice happened today, they will have at least one day to check their notes and understand how to sew that item they randomly selected, which they will sew on Thursday and present it in the afternoon.

The dress I am putting today is something I sew by myself during one of our classes”, proudly said Goretti. “As you can see, it looks beautiful on me and whenever I put it, I feel proud of myself for having been able to sew a wonderful dress for myself”, she concluded.

Goretti in her dress

Other examples include Gloire who did not purchase any dress from the market for her wedding. She bought fabrics, sewing materials and used the sewing machines in the classroom to make her own clothes that she brought with her in her marriage.

When asked about how much they would have cost if she paid a sewing business for the service, she responded: “Let me count and think,” her colleagues making fun of her as she is counting. “I was able to sew about 4 nice dresses that would have cost me up to 100 USD,” she finally replied. “This is a lot of money that I could not afford as I was getting ready for the marriage,” Gloire concluded, a smile on her face.

Andrine is yet another example. She was able to make a dress that she proudly put on. Passy, also called Pascaline, the trainer, called on her: “You should speak about the many times you have come here putting on that dress of yours,” since Andrine was shy when the question was asked to the group. She could only laugh while her colleagues testified that it is a nice dress that she was able to make for herself.

The current class started with 8 fresh students in February this year, some had to drop due to family and health issues. As of today, only 6 made it to the end of the training, which is a record compared to previous classes. To that number, 3 interns from the previous class were added and two trainers including one who was a student from the first class.

The biggest problem they reported was the long distance from Lac Vert, where most of them live, to the training center and not being able to receive a meal at the Center. They were tired and weakened by the long walk, but, thanks to God through our partner, we were able to start providing a meal every day of class (3 days a week), something they welcomed and have been thankful for.

Getting ready to eat

“You cannot imagine how we feel strong after our lunch which is given at the end of each day. The distance we walk is very long and the hours we spend practicing in the class can be tiring and exhausting”, said Rebecca, one of the newer students.

Would you like to partner with us in supporting the next class? Please get in touch, we will direct you to the right place to make your secure online donation.

Our High School Students Are Doing Great

It was so great meeting our high school students this morning”, said Arsene Tungali, our Executive Director after a visit at the school in Lac Vert. He had the opportunity to speak with some of our high school students. “They have grown big and are now taking their studies seriously”, he added.

It is since 2012 (school year, 2012-2013) that we started our Education program and we are thankful to our Lord Jesus who is taking good care of our beneficiaries and our volunteers leading our Rudi Education program.

Our senior students are in their 4th high school class and Marcelin, one of them, told Arsene the following: “I only have two years left to graduate from high school and cannot wait to be able to go to University afterwards, Lord willing”. He is right by giving it all into God’s hands because he knows that his parents might not be able to support his schooling because they were not able to for the entire time he has been into our program. He believes in God who will provide.

                                                   Marcelin (left) and Kazadi (right)

At the school where most of them are going, we have students who are in their 3rd year and who are doing “Construction” as their chosen section of studies as they look forward to being able to build houses, etc. Jibiwa, a young female student in her 3rd school year said, during the conversation: “In our neighborhood, everyone is amazed at how I ended up choosing that section, which is, according to them, meant for men”.

Surprisingly, Jibiwa was the first in her class for the first period and was able to have close to 70% in a class full of men. “I don’t know how I can be first and leave all my male colleagues behind me”, she said. “All I did was making sure I focus on my studies and make them my priorities over anything else”, she concluded.For us at Rudi International, we are thankful to God and to all our supporters who have partnered with us since day 1 and we hope you too are celebrating alongside us what the Lord has been up to.

Please stay in touch and let us know if there is any better way we can keep you updated on anything going on the ground with our students.

First Ever Digital Rights Conference held in the DR Congo

For Immediate Release

Goma, November 6, 2018

Rudi International and its partners organized the first ever “Conference on Human Rights in the Digital Age in the Democratic Republic of the Congo”, the Haki Conference, held on Monday and Tuesday in the town of Goma, Eastern Congo.

Covered online with the hashtag #HakiConf2018, this gathering brought together nearly two hundred participants from DRC, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya.

There was no better time to organize such a conference in DRC, a country where most people know little to nothing about their digital rights”, said Arsene Tungali, Executive Director of Rudi International.

Digital rights are violated here very often and there is no platform where citizens can discuss the issue and organize to find a solution. That’s where the Haki Conference comes inhe added.

The wide variety of participant’s background ranging from journalism to activism, business, technology, etc. was a catalyst for meaningful interactions and heated debates.

Our wish would have been to accommodate all the nearly 400 people who applied but we were restrained by the budget and could take only half of that. This is a clear indication that the interest in digital rights is there, hence, the need for more similar events”, explained Arsene, who announced that the event will be an annual rendez-vous in the DRC.

As a pre-event of this inaugural edition, Rudi International’s longtime partner CIPESA organized a workshop on ICT Policy and Advocacy in East and Southern Africa. This was an opportunity for nearly thirty participants to learn about the basics of digital rights and be introduced to the Internet freedom landscape in Africa, etc.

“East and Central Africa is facing numerous challenges that undermine internet freedom yet insufficient work is being done to address these challenges. A shortage of resources, hostile environments for civic actors who promote free expression and good governance as well as repressive laws contribute to these challenges”, said Wairagala Wakabi (Phd), who is the Executive Director of CIPESA.

Accordingly, CIPESA is working to grow the network of individuals and groups that work on advancing internet freedom and building their capacity to engage in digital rights advocacy. This training and the conference in Goma assembled a rich mix of stakeholders – lawyers, journalists, women’s rights activists, private sector actors and state officials – all of whom need to work collaboratively to realize an affordable, inclusive and open internet in Burundi, DR Congo, Rwanda and Uganda”, he concluded.  

Participants signed “The Goma Declaration on Human Rights in the Digital Age” with call to actions and commitments that would make DRC a digital rights friendly country.

Download the full Declaration (in French): #HakiConf2018 – Declaration de Goma.

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To schedule interviews on #HakiConf2018, please, get in touch with Blaise Ndola, ICT Program Manager. Mobile phone and WhatsApp : +243 990961665 (Français et Anglais)

Email: info@rudiinternational.org (Francais et Anglais)

Few photos of the conference can be downloaded from Rudi’s Facebook Page (before they can be shared to a public link) and are to be used only with written permission of Rudi International.

#HakiConf2018 c’est déjà pour demain.

En effet, c’est déjà pour demain.

Nous partageons dans ce message les dernières touches d’information pour vous permettre de mieux vous préparer : notez que nous avons une formation demain dimanche et la conférence qui débute le lundi pour deux jours.

Votre participation à la conférence :

  • Vous vous êtes inscrits, nous avons essayé de faire la sélection et avons notifié ceux qui ont été retenus. Ils ont été contactés par email et ont confirmé leur participation. Veuillez vérifier dans vos emails si vous avez reçu le message avec comme objet : « #HakiConf2018 : Notification de votre sélection pour participation » envoyé par Rudi International.
  • Si vous n’avez pas reçu d’email de confirmation, cela ne veut pas dire que votre dossier n’était pas intéressant, mais parce que nous avions un nombre précis, pour des raisons budgétaires. Vous aurez d’autres opportunités à venir et nous allons garder contact ;
  • Vous avez la possibilité de suivre en ligne via notre Page Facebook et sur Twitter en suivant l’hashtag #HakiConf.

La participation à la formation du Dimanche 4 Novembre

  • La formation sur les « Politiques et le Plaidoyer dans le secteur du numérique » organisée conjointement par Rudi International et notre partenaire CIPESA débute ce Dimanche 4 Novembre 2018 (toute la journée). Les participants ont reçu leurs notifications et sont attendus à Linda Hôtel à partir de 8h30.
  • Si vous n’avez pas reçu de notification quant à ce, merci de ne pas vous présenter. Nous promettons que nous allons organiser d’autres formations dans ce sens et l’on vous tiendra informés.

Collecte des badges pour la conférence

  • Les participants à la conférence qui le désirent peuvent se présenter Dimanche 4 Novembre entre 15 et 17h à Linda Hôtel pour collecter leurs badges et ainsi éviter la queue demain matin ;
  • Le Lundi 5 Novembre 2018, la date du début de la conférence, veuillez vous présenter sur les lieux à partir de 8h pour collecter votre badge qui vous permettra d’avoir accès à la conférence.

Autre annonces :

  • Nous souhaitons un bon voyage a ceux qui viennent d’autres villes de la RDC (comme Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Kisangani, etc), ainsi que d’autres pays de la region;
  • Veuillez télécharger les documents suivants :

L’Agenda: HakiConf2018 Draft Agenda V3,

Le Code de Bonne Conduite: HakiConf2018 – CODE DE BONNE CONDUITE

La Note Logistique HakiConf 2018- Note Logistique Finale

#HakiConf2018: Les inscriptions s’ouvrent aujourd’hui!

C’est le moment de prendre votre inscription.

Désirez-vous prendre part à la première édition de la “Conférence sur les droits de l’homme à l’ère du numérique en RDC“, #HakiConf2018 ?

Désirez-vous faire partie des discussions sur l’application des droits de l’homme dans ce siècle de l’Internet en RDC et en Afrique ?

Prenez votre inscription aujourd’hui en cliquant sur ce lien (jusqu’au 31 Octobre 2018)

La conférence se tient du 5 au 6 Novembre 2018 à Goma dans la grande salle de l’Hôtel Linda, avec une belle vue sur le Lac Kivu.