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Facebook helps to fight rape in DRC

"What we’re doing matters," says Jeannine Mabunda Lioko Mudiayi, the personal representative of President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo on sexual violence and the recruitment of child soldiers. A 2011 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that women were being raped at the rate of 48 per hour, especially in militia-plagued eastern Congo, which created a culture of impunity that has persisted even though the conflict has lessened somewhat .

Mabunda has set a goal of ending her country’s reputation, as ’the rape capital of the world’ – not through public relations but through transforming reality.

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Jeannine Mabunda Lioko Mudiayi

As one step in that process, her office launched a campaign to bring the issue of violence against women into the open. In a conversation with AllAfrica, she explained a little bit more about it, and the role Social Media, especially facebook, played in it. Read here a summary, and, to read the full version, go here.

Breaking the silence

“We started the Break the Silence campaign to educate people about the existence of laws which protect women. We wanted to inspire people and show them that the government of Congo is working to protect women from rape. We wanted to let people know that they have a tool, they have a weapon – and that weapon is the law.
The governor of Kinshasa decided to give us billboards for Break the Silence for free. He wanted to show that Congolese men are interested in changing the narrative and in changing the reality on the ground. The campaign brought a lot of success and decided that this was a good test project, but recognized that the DRC is much bigger than Kinshasa.

The second phase of the campaign just started in September. We were very happy when UN Women and UNFPA (the United Nations Population Fund) decided to join the government in this campaign.

We started in Kinshasa, but this time we’re also using flyers, posters, t-shirts and whistles, using the whistle to denounce rapists. We went to areas where people are more vulnerable and told the people about what rape is, and the existing laws.

The importance of Facebook

For the new campaign, we’re expanding outside of Kinshasa to Bukavu and Goma [in eastern Congo). Depending on logistical challenges, we hope to be able to reach all provinces in the DRC by the middle of next year.

All people have the right to be informed that sexual violence isn’t acceptable, and they have a right to know that they can denounce it. A surprise from this campaign has been all the posts on Facebook. We had a lot of people from the Diaspora community that we didn’t target for the campaign who wanted to participate in this national crusade through social media.

We have a t-shirt and posters that say "Say No to Rape", and we were very surprised to see that a lot of young Congolese people all over the world have taken pictures of themselves wearing these shirts, or standing in front of their posters and are sharing these pictures on social media.

It was so moving, and we have decided that we would like to make it even more viral. We created a Facebook page for this and over the course of three weeks we had received over 10,000 postings from people who are interested in the cause. And now we’re running out of t-shirts! We’ve learned that people are prepared to break the silence, and that the Congolese want to come together to stop sexual violence.
We have many ambassadors, men, women, entire families and members of the Diaspora who have all participated. This is good – it shows that people are prepared to stand up and to reaffirm that we do not want rape in our country.


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