Congolese women and men unite in solidarity for International Women’s Day

Something extraordinary happened today in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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In this country commonly famed for its use of rape as a weapon of war, today, thousands of women and men united in a peaceful demonstration to behold the value of women. Today is International Women's Day.

“It's a very big deal nationally,” says Esther Wong, FH program officer in the Congo (center, smiling). “It's a day where women are celebrated. Even after this march, we ate together, and the one male with us served the food to us. It was a way for men to show their respect for women and to support what we're doing as women. It's also a symbol of solidarity. We show that we are strong, we are able to accomplish many things together, that we're successful.”
Every major city in the Congo held a march, and every female FH staff member in the country participated — all 70 of them. FH staff above, from left: Toto is an accountant in Bukavu, Leena works out of the Washington, D.C. office, and Esther is a program officer.

Near Bukavu, where FH has an office, more than 1,000 women converged — many walking long distances from rural areas — exuberantly singing and dancing as they marched. They carried banners like the one above, saying “International Women's Day – Equal access to opportunities for all in a unified Congo.” A formal ceremony recognized attendants from the United Nations, the local government and other sectors.

As the mass of people marched, they passed groups of community activists encouraging everyone to get tested for HIV — a disease that thrives on extreme poverty and the mistreatment of women.

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