Minister Kitir on working visit to Congo: “putting the power of women center stage”
Minister for Development Cooperation and Major Cities Policy, Meryame Kitir, is going on a working visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from November 23 to 28. The visit focuses on women's rights, gender equality and gender-based violence. Meetings with Congolese women and local and international organizations working on these topics will be central to the visit.
The power of women
Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls have long been a Belgian priority. Improving and protecting women's rights, and in particular the fight against gender-based violence, are important priorities in Belgium's domestic and foreign policy. Thus, our country contributes significantly to the fight against this issue, including through support to UN agencies, international and local NGOs, and through the Belgian agency for development cooperation, Enabel.
Minister Kitir is therefore keen to place these themes at the heart of her visit to DRC. This working visit to DRC takes place during the "16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence" campaign, which runs annually from November 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to December 10 (International Human Rights Day) and aims to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls.
Meryame Kitir will do several visits together with Winnie Byanyima, the Executive Director of UNAIDS. She will further visit mainly projects that are dedicated to supporting initiatives that support survivors of sexual violence. M.Kitir will travel to the east of the country and visit the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, South Kivu, where Dr. Denis Mukwege and his team care for survivors of sexual violence.
"Sexual violence - anywhere in the world - should never be tolerated. When you become a victim of sexual violence, it touches your entire identity. That's one of the worst things that can happen to you," Kitir says. "Then again, when your body is thrown into battle as a weapon of war - as is the case here in Congo - it is important that actions are set up so that women can recover and be protected. During my visit, I want to work with Congolese women to take action to counter this terrible injustice."
Men as allies
In addition to the fight against sexual violence, gender inequality is also a central issue during Minister Kitir's working visit to the DRC. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this inequality worldwide. Just think of the underrepresentation of women in decision-making bodies, their low participation in the formal economy, gender-based violence or the fact that more and more girls are being married off.
"We still have a long way to go to enforce gender equality," says Kitir. "If we are to effectively pursue greater equality, we must ensure that more men become our allies. Together with our local and international partners on the ground, we will work on this. Because it is important that we fight this battle together."