On the initiative of Kvinna till Kvinna women human rights defenders from different parts of eastern DR Congo recently gathered again in Burundi to develop and deepen strategies to stay safe and well in hostile environments. It was an opportunity for activists to reflect on their own situation and share ideas on how to keep going despite immense challenges. These women all take a great risk by working to defend human rights and peace in places where respect for human rights and peace are far from a reality.
“It starts with the eggs and ends with the property!” our facilitator concluded. One of the topics discussed during the meeting was the control over women in different spheres of society. From what girls are allowed or not allowed to eat to if women can own their own property and be economically independent. We asked ourselves: Am I free to make decisions about my own body? Who defines my daily routines? What are the power relations that affect my freedom and security? And how do we find ways to free ourselves from violating norms?
Security is not only about arms and safe streets. Security is also about my personal life, my health, my voice. The most important outcome of the meeting for Christine, one of the participants, was to find strategies how to dismantle oppressive structures in her own life, both privately and professionally. For Brigitte, another participating women’s rights activist, the meeting was an opportunity realize her own value, and to respect herself on different levels.
As women human rights defenders we need to find ways to support each other to keep going. Despite immense challenges.