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CEDAW Anniversary: Helping Women Lead in the Democratic Republic of the Congo


In honor of the 33rd anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), IFES colleagues from around the world share their thoughts on gender discrimination in their countries and how they are working to overcome it.

Name: Sylvie Matondo
Title: Regional Coordinator
Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo

How does discrimination against women affect their participation as citizens in the Democratic Republic of the Congo?

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has ratified a number of international conventions on the protection of women and ending discrimination against them. But it is clear there is a gap between what the international standards maintain and how they are applied in this country.

Discrimination against women can be observed at all levels. At the institutional level, women play a secondary role in the republic’s institutions. During the 2011 elections, not a single woman registered as a candidate for president.

When it comes to political appointments at all levels, very few women are tapped to participate in the management of public affairs. For example, the current central government has 31 ministers, of which only five are women. Out of the 11 provinces in our country, none of them has a female governor. Also, in the recent nominations for coordinators of the new decentralized territories, the number of women remains insignificant, especially in light of Article 14 of the DRC’s constitution.

If we take the case of the city of Kisangani, out of the six communal mayors, just one woman was appointed. The only other woman to be appointed to any position was appointed assistant mayor. When it comes to political party lists, most of them are dominated by men.

When looking at the bigger picture, it must be noted that the low levels of female representation and participation in decision-making bodies comes from cultural barriers and social impediments that limit women’s role to the home.

Efforts must be made to change the current situation.

Please tell us about your work with IFES related to combating discrimination against women and promoting women’s empowerment.

At IFES, we make an effort to encourage women to take on leadership roles. For example, three out of our five regional offices are directed by women, and their responsibilities are not based on gender stereotypes. IFES allows women to work in an environment that is based on merit and proven expertise.