GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo -- Thousands of women marched through the city center of Goma yesterday in celebration of International Women's Day. Women turned out in droves, participants explained, because this annual event is the only day of the year when their voices would be heard.
"Whenever we speak out about our concerns and needs throughout the year, no one listens. Today is the only occasion we are being seen and heard," says a young female carpenter, adding that she hopes the government will respond with a positive message to the march.
A multitude of community groups were represented, from student and religious groups to political parties, and a wide variety of professional associations, from fish and goat traders, mechanics, and restaurant owners, to the military and international NGOs. Each group was dressed in matching, colorful Congolese fabrics, and many brought objects, such as bread, dried fish, shoes, or a goat along to represent their profession. In celebratory mood and chanting, they walked through the normally busy main road of Goma with signs and banners to reach a podium where government, diplomatic, and United Nations representatives offered words of solidarity.
The women Enough interviewed were all motivated by a common goal: to make the voices of women heard and to help change their life, status, and position in Congolese society. While Congo's constitution establishes the principle of equality between men and women, some provisions of Congolese law and traditions still discriminate against women. The Congolese Labor Code, for example, requires women to have a permission by their husbands to perform salaried work and public services; women are paid about 60 percent of what men make. Married women also need the authorization of their husbands to sign legal documents. "Men see women as inferior; they don't think we can do the same work," complains 35-year-old Masamba who came to the celebration with her bible group. A ...[view whole blog post ]