HEAL Africa’s Gender and Justice program tackles the root causes of gender inequality in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). Through decades of war and centuries of exploitation, traditional social and community structures have broken down to the point where most of the population does not even know that they have rights.

The Gender and Justice program is based on two premises:

  1. The law must express the collective will of the community, and be reinforced by the judicial system to punish lawbreakers.
  2. The rights given to women in the 2006 Law on Sexual Violence and the 2005 Constitution must be actively appropriated by women within a community that supports their empowerment.

HEAL Africa’s strategy for addressing  gender and justice issues is four-pronged:

First, HEAL Africa partners with the American Bar Association to reinforce the judicial system at the provincial, territorial, and community levels so that victims of sexual violence obtain justice, and the community receives the clear message that sexual violence in any form is not tolerated.

Louise Bashige and her team in Mutwanga are teaching democratic governance and management to local organizations that are working for gender equity and against sexual violence.

Second, HEAL Africa equips religious and community leaders, through gender and justice training, to be advocates for change and mobilizers of their communities by promoting gender equity.

Third, HEAL Africa creates opportunities for men to engage in dialogue and reflection that may counteract the way culture, religions, and schools socialize boys to develop oppressive attitudes towards women, and help them develop a more collaborative form of masculinity.

Fourth, HEAL Africa works closely with primary and secondary schools in the North Kivu and Maniema provinces to train teachers and create youth clubs that provide a safe environment for young boys and girls to discuss gender-related issues and learn about the benefits to both of a more egalitarian social structure.

HEAL Africa recognizes that gains in gender equity and a functioning judicial system will take place only if the whole community is actively involved and strives for inclusiveness in its gender and equality efforts.