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Elisa Garcia | Posted October 1st, 2009 | Africa

AFEM-SK in the office
AFEM-SK in the office
The summer is over.

Now, back home in Madrid, and enjoying the first days of the autumn I take some time to reflect about the summer. My reflections can not go too far because my soul is still somewhre in central Africa, taking some time to rejoin my body. I thought that a long and complicated four day-trip back home would make things easier; I thought that it would give me time to organize and find place for the new feelings and the bright images;  I thought that pasing through other European (familiar) countries before finally making it to Madrid would give me some clues about world emotional flows, injustices and stories… but it didn´t. 

I just simply extremely exhausted.

Ryanair (the European lo-cost airline) gave me a very hard time in London, making me do impossible queues, pay absurd amounts of money for the extra-luggage and treating me worse than in any of the Congolese borders (!).  When I realised that the company was actually making me miss my flight (with them!) with their funny procedures and I was starting to feel stressed, angry and anxious I decided to leave aside these typical European-first world feelings and to fly with another company. Easyjet gave me good deal and I arrived to Madrid one day later. When I was buying the new ticket in the Easyjet desk to the nicest employee of the company (no doubt), I began to cry silently, I don´t know quite well where it came from…

I have spent the whole summer in “war-torn Congo”, having encounters with victims of sexual violence (old women, little girls, young women), hearing outrageous stories of the war, looking at the eyes of misery and injustice. And no tears. But broke apart in Standstead airport. Life is so absurd and wise.

While I am back at my comfortable working place trying to focus and get back to a European rythm, I can not help but think that with even though the summer is over, the old pleas for social justice for women in Congo are not. During these weeks, the women of AFEM-SK are working hard to continue with their activities in a climate of fear and doubt, trying to understand how to perform a strong activism and not risk their lives. Sometimes this is just not possible.

From Madrid, I want to send my hope, strenght and faith in their efforts. Change can happen.

Following, I post their communication on the events of the last month (below, translated in English)


L’association des femmes des Médias du Sud-Kivu (AFEM) s’indigne face aux menaces de mort proférées à leur endroit à travers un SMS citant nommément 3 femmes journalistes, 2 de Radio okapi et 1 de Radio Maendeleo. Ce SMS envoyé le 8 septembre 2009 en kiswahili est ainsi libellé : « Mulisha zoweya mubaya munaanza ingia mu mambo haibaone ju kuonesha kama habawezi bagusa, sasa munataka kufa ako juu munyamaze. Tulisha pata ruusa ya kuaanzia ako Kadi, kiisha Kamuntu kiisha , Kintu Namuto…risasi mu kichwa.»

Traduction en français

«Vous avez pris la mauvaise habitude de vous immiscer dans ce qui ne vous regarde pas pour montrer que vous êtes des intouchables, maintenant certains d’entre vous vont mourir pour que vous la boucliez. Nous venons d’avoir l’autorisation de commencer par Kadi, puis Kamuntu puis Namuto …une balle dans la tête »

Pendant le deuil du journaliste Bruno Koko le mois d’Aout passé, on pouvait entendre dans la foule que “ Après cela, ce sera le tour des journalistes femmes à être tuées”.

Lors du passage de Mme la Secrétaire d’Etat Américaine à Goma le 11 août dernier, dans sa présentation, l’Association des Femmes des Médias du Sud Kivu avait justement plaidé auprès de Mme Clinton pour qu’elle use de son influence afin la liberté d’expression soit renforcée en RDC, pays où plusieurs médias venaient d’être interdits de diffusion comme RFI et une Radio rurale située à Shabunda (Radio Mutanga) venait d’être détruite. A posteriori ce plaidoyer se révèle encore plus pertinent.

Ceci prouve à suffisance que les journalistes continuent à être la cible des ennemis de la liberté d’expression dans une province du Sud Kivu où 3 journalistes ont été tués en 3 ans : Serge Maheshe et Didace Namujimbo de la Radio Okapi et Bruno Koko de la Radio Star.

Face à cette situation, l’Association des Femmes des Médias du Sud-Kivu souhaite mettre l’autorité provinciale devant ses responsabilités de sécuriser les journalistes avant qu’un nouveau drame ne survienne.

Au service de renseignements, AFEM demande de diligenter sans délais une enquête pour identifier les auteurs de ces menaces à partir du numéro vodacom qu’ils avaient utilisé.

A tous nos Amis et partenaires, nous lançons un appel pour nous aider dans les mécanismes de sécurisation des journalistes, ce dont nous vous remercions d’avance.

Association des femmes des Medias du Su-Kivu(AFEM)


The  Association des femmes des Médias du Sud-Kivu (AFEM) is outraged due to the death threats receieved via SMS by three women journalists, 2 from Radio Okapi and 1 from Radio Maendeleo. This SMS, sent on the 8th of September 2009 in kiswahili said: «You have acquired the bad habit of interfering in things that are none of your bussiness to show that you are untouchable, now some of you are going to die. We just received the authorisation to start with Kadi, then Kamuntu and then Namuto …a bullet in the head »

During the mourning of the journalist Bruno Koko, last August, we could hear people shouting in the crowd “After this, it will the be turn of the women journalists”

When the Secretary of State of the USA came to Goma last August the 11th, in her presentation, the Association des Femmes des Médias du Sud Kivu asked Mrs.Clinton to use her influence to promote and strengthen the freedom of speech in DRC, a country where many media have been fordibben, such as  RFI and a rural radio in Shabunda (Radio Mutanga) has been destroyed. A posteriori this cause seems to be even more pertinent.

This proves that the journalists are still the target of the enemies of the freedom of speech in the province of Sud Kivu where 3 journalists have been killed in 3 years : Serge Maheshe and Didace Namujimbo of Radio Okapi and Bruno Koko of Radio Star.

In this context, the Association des Femmes des Médias du Sud-Kivu wants to ask the provincial authorities to be accountable with its responsibilities of securitising journalists before we have to learn of a new tragedy. Also, to do a legal prosecution, AFEM asks for a procedure to identify the authors of this threats through their Vodacom phone number.

To all our friends and partnerss, we launch a message of demand of help to assist with the mechanisms of protection of journalists, thanking you in advance.”

                                                           In Bukavu,  15/09/09

Association des femmes des Medias du Su-Kivu(AFEM)

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Elisa Garcia | Posted October 1st, 2009 | Africa

In the streets of Bukavu
In the streets of Bukavu
It will be impossible to forget the noise of the streets, the smell of the fresh fish in the market and the colour of the city, buried under an everlasting layer of dust. I leave with the dry season; here I leave the tropical heat and the heavy rains of the rainy season that will bring back the exuberance to the fields. I leave behind many days of exploring and discovering, not understanding and trying to understand, learning, and finally, knowing. When you make a great effort to get to know something so remote and hard you will end up loving it somehow… we can say that Congo is hard to get to know, it is incomprehensible and unfair, but beautiful, visceral and moving. 

Many faces, many stories, many heartbreaking testimonies, many laughs, many gestures, many shared meals, many discussed projects, many exchanged ideas, many doubts, many requests and many gifts. 

My eyes will never forget the hills of Idwji Island, the mamas carrying enormous bags of dozens of kilos of charcoal, the colours of the fruit in the market, the morning light, the sunsets in the shores of the Kivu Lake, the thousands of small mud houses scattered in the hills, the goats in the city centre, the convoy of white jeeps, the colours of the pagnes of the neat mamas going to the mass, the crowded dances of the ceremonies, the young soldiers marching in the city, the huge MONUC lorries and vehicles, the incredible girls´ hairdos, the men travelling on the top of a huge pile of merchandises on the lorries, the parishioners dancing during the mass,  the babies in their mother’s, sister’s or auntie’s back…  

Now I understand those who keep coming back to the heart of Africa; those who travel through the transnational routes between Europe and Africa; those who feel a home when they are at these cities… shattered, crowded, chaotic, vibrant, awake, ugly, alive… cities that wake up early and go to bed late, full of dust or mud, depending on the season, but always full of people full of dreams that fly and sometimes crash.   

En Español: Hasta pronto, Congo

Será imposible olvidar el ruido de las calles, el olor del pescado fresco en el mercado y el color de la ciudad enterrada bajo una capa de polvo. Me voy con la estación seca; atrás dejo el calor tropical y las lluvias torrenciales de la estación de lluvias que volverá a traer la exuberancia a los campos. Atrás quedan muchos días de descubrir, explorar, aprender, no entender y, finalmente, conocer. Cuando te esfuerzas tanto por conocer algo tan remoto y ajeno de alguna manera acabas amándolo… y es que Congo es difícil de conocer, es tan incomprensible e injusto, pero tan bello, visceral y apasionante.

Muchas caras, muchas historias, muchos testimonios de sufrimiento, muchas risas, muchos gestos, muchas comidas compartidas, muchos proyectos discutidos, muchas ideas intercambiadas, muchas dudas, mucha esperanza, muchas peticiones y muchos regalos.

Se quedan en mi retina las colinas de la Isla de Idwji, las mamas acarreando sacos de decenas kilos de carbón, los colores de las frutas en el mercado, la luz de la mañana, los atardeceres en el lago Kivu, la miles de casas de barro desperdigadas por los cerros, los cabritillos en el centro de la ciudad, el convoy de camionetas blancas con logos, los colores de los pagnes y las mamas impecables para ir a la iglesia, los bailes multitudinarios de las ceremonias, los soldados jovencísimos marchando por la ciudad, los camiones y tanquetas de la MONUC, las cabezas trenzadas de las niñas, los hombres viajando encima de las mercancías de un camión, los fieles bailando en misa, los bebés en las espaldas de sus madres o tías o hermanas…   

Ahora entiendo a aquellos que vuelven aquí, al corazón de África, una y otra vez, a aquellos que transitan por los caminos transnacionales entre Europa y África. Aquellos que se sienten en casa en estas ciudades desbaratadas, amontonadas, caóticas, vibrantes, despiertas, feas, vivas… ciudades que madrugan y ciudades que trasnochan, llenas de polvo o de barro según la estación, pero siempre llenas de gente con sueños que vuelan y que a veces se estrellan.   


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Elisa Garcia | Posted September 10th, 2009 | Africa

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Ridelphine Katabesha
Ridelphine Katabesha
Da Ride, as we know Ridelphine Katabesha Aganze, is back from Fizi. AFEM-SK sent Ride as a reporter to Baraka (the territorial capital of the territory of Fizi) to meet the women from the Club d´Ecoute (Radio Club), train a group of 25 women on women´s rigths and good governance and to learn about the impact of the deployment of the troops of the joint UN-FARDC (Forces Armées de la République Democratique du Congo) military operation Kimya II in this huge southern territory of South Kivu.

The women of AFEM-Fizi, led by Sango Batengi, are today, after many trainings of AFEM and other Baraka-based NGOs, ready to speak out about the situation of women in their province and so they do: they interview the regional authorities, they speak with victims, they report about oppressive traditions and they prepare broadcasts that they send to the staff AFEM in Bukavu so that the producers can edit it and send it to the radios of the province.

Ridelphine tells us about the current situation of the peoples of Fizi and what they are thinking, feeling and fearing in these troubled times of the cited operation. Both civilians and authorities are aware about the importance of disarming the population and of finishing with the presence of armed groups that encourage illegal practises such as drug, weapon and mineral trafficking; threaten the lives of civilians; damage the state´s authority and monopoly of violence; and engender a culture of violence. On the other hand, everyone speaks openly about the common history of the residents of Fizi and the members of the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the LIberation of Rwanda): many FDLR soldiers are dedicated to small businesses such as the charcoal and flour; many of the have been married, and thus integrated in Congolese families, for many years… how could we expect these peoples to agree with the prosecution of their father, husband or brother-in-law?

We also discuss about the status of women in the remote territory; she seems to be happy with the job that AFEM is doing but she declares to feel hopeless when she learns how the women from Fizi live under the repressive customary laws that forbid them to own land or to inherit, turning them into domestic and helpless slaves. Ridelphine is on her last year of law at college and thus we understand her sensitivity towards the legal issues; she points out that almost all the couples get married following the customary practises –not legally binding- with the subsequent lack of protection of the women in the household and that the vast majority of the cases of sexual violence against women are not prosecuted and when the women finally decide to prosecute the criminals they will do it through amicable settlements.

This 23-year-old college student and journalist of Radio Star gives us wise and critical lenses to look at what is happening in Estearn Congo and her revealing words teach us about the power of the women activists to explain the other women of their region about their rights.


Da Ride, como conocemos a Ridelphine Katabesha Aganze, ha vuelto de Fizi. AFEM-SK envió a Ride como periodista a Baraka (la capital del territorio de Fizi) para encontrarse con las mujeres del Radio Club, formar a un grupo de 25 de mujeres en: derechos de la mujer, derechos humanos y buen gobierno; y para conocer el impacto del despliegue de las tropas de la operación militar conjunta de la MONUC y de las FARDC (Forces Armées de la République Democratique du Congo), Kimya II, en esta vasto y selvático territorio meriodional de Sud Kivu.

Las mujeres de AFEM-Fizi, lideradas por Sango Batengi, están hoy, después de muchas formaciones a crago de AFEM y de otras ONGs basadas en Baraka, preparadas para denuciar la precaria situación de la mujer en su comarca y así lo hacen: enrevistan a las autoridaes locales, se reunen con víctimas de violencia e informan acerca de tradiciones opresivas y preparan emisiones que envían al personal del producción de AFEM en Bukavu para que prepare los programas y los envíe a las emisoras de radio de la provincia.

Ridelphine nos habla de la actual situación de las gentes de Fizi y lo que piensan, sienten y temen en estos tiempos revueltos de la mencionada operación. Tanto los civiles como las autoridades son conscientes de la importancia de desarmar a la población y de acabar con la presencia de grupos armados que promueven las actividades ilegales como el tráfico de drogas, de armas y de minerales; amenazan la vida de los civiles; socavan la autoridad estatal y su monopolio de la violencia; y engendran una cultura de violencia.Por otro lado, todos hablan abiertamente de la historia en común de los habitantes de Fizi y de los miembros del FDLR (Fuerzas Democráticzas para la LIberación de Ruanda): muchos soldados del FDLR se han dedicado al comercio del carbón y de la harina; otros tantos se han casado con mujeres de la región y se han integrado en las familias… durante muchos años…¿cómo podemos esperar que estas personas estén de acuerdo con la persecución de su padre, su marido o su cuñado?

También hablamos acerca de la situación de la mujer en el remoto territorio; parece satisfecha con el trabajo de las mamas de AFEM pero confiesa sentirse desesperanzada cuando ve cómo las mujeres de Fizi viven bajo unas leyes consuetudinarias opresivas que les prohiben poseer o heredar, lo que les convierte en esclavas domésticas. Ridelphine está estudiando el ultimo año de derecho, de ahí su sensibilidad por los temas jurídicos; así, señala que la gran mayoría de las parejas están casadas por el rito tradicional –que no tiene ningún tipo de vinculación legal- , lo que resulta en una falta de protección de la mujer en el hogar; y, la gran mayoría de los casos de violencia sexual contra mujeres no son perseguidos o si lo son es a través  de acuerdos amistosos.

Esta estudiante universitaria de 23 años y periodista de Radio Star nos facilita una lente crítica para observar los acontecimientos que están teniendo lugar en el este del Congo y sus palabras nos hablan del poder de las activistas para enseñarles sus derechos a las otras mujeres de su región.

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Elisa Garcia | Posted September 4th, 2009 | Africa

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If you are one day in a plain of a lost village in Walungu, Kabare, Idwji or any territory of the province South Kivu and you see a huge screen and 3.000 persons watching a documentary you are not dreaming…. 3TAMIS is in town.

This Congolese NGO was born in 2002, as a result of the sinergy of a group of local organisations and the expertise of a Belgian professor, Thierry Carton, on video education. They realised that albeit the great effort of the community media and “peace media” (namely Radio Maendeleo and Radio Okapi) in Sud Kivu there was a lack of images; they firmly believe that the “image is stronger than the word”, so they began to produce video documentaries to promote peace in the years of war.

Franck Mweze, the coordinator of 3TAMIS tells us about their projects and how they have been devoted to postconflict rehabilitation and democratic litteracy in the last years in Southern Kivu. 3TAMIS contributed to the democratisation process with educational videos about the voting procedure and since 2006, after the elections, they have focused on the production and broadcast of documentaries in urban and rural areas with the purpose of promoting the respect of human rights, adressing development issues and denouncing attacks to women and children.

They have produced 147 films on many subjects: from sexual violence to illegal and brutal cassiterite mining practises; from the story of a man who built the Miss Rafiki boat during the war to the wildlife and the of the Kahuzi Biega national park; explaining the activities of the young kivutians during the summer holidays and telling us about local bussineses… .

3TAMIS doesn´t just produce and broadcast films, but also takes the productions to remote places of the province and opens debates about different issues and, even more interesting, show the documentaries to the protagonists of the film and reflect about the changes that have happened… has the denounce changed the policies? Are people more aware about the problems of letting children work in the mines? Is anyone inspired by the lifestory of a person who overcame difficulties and ran a succesful Business during the war? Do people understand the consequences of rape for women, their families, their communities and the whole society?

Check one of the productions of 3TAMIS on gender based sexual violence in the DRC:

To learn more about 3TAMIS visit: http://www.3tamis.org/

En Español: Como en las épocas del cine ambulante

Si un día estas en una explanada en un pueblo perdido de Walungu, Kabare, Idwji o cualquier otro territorio de la provincia de Sud Kivu y ves una pantalla gigante y a 3.000 personas viendo un documental, no está soñando… es que 3TAMIS ha llegado.

Esta ONG congoleña nació en 2002, como resultado de la sinergia de varias organizaciones locales y la experiencia de un profesor universitario belga, Thierry Carton, en educación a través de las herramientas audiovisuales. Se dieron cuenta de que a pesar de los grandes esfuerzos de los medios comunitarios y los medios comprometidos con la construcción de paz (principalmente Radio Maendeleo y Radio Okapi) en Sud Kivu había una ausencia de imágenes; creen firmemente que la “imagen es más fuerte que la palabra”, así que empezaron, en los últimos años de la Segunda Guerra del Congo, a producir documentales con el fin de promover la paz y la reconciliación.

Franck Mweze, el coordinatdor de 3TAMIS nos cuenta sobre sus proyectos y sobre el periplo que les ha llevado a consagrarse a cuestiones de rehabilitación posbélica y alfabetización democrática en los últimos años en Sud Kivu. 3TAMIS contribuyó al proceso de democratización produciendo y proyectando una serie de vídeos pedagógicos sobre el proceso electoral y desde 2006, tras las elecciones,  se han centrado en la producción y proyección de documentales en áreas urbanas y rurales con el fin de promover el respeto a los derechos humanos, de tratar cuestiones de desarrollo y denunciar las prácticas abusivas contra mujeres y niños.

Han producido 147 películas sobre múltiples temas: desde la violencia sexual hasta la explotación ilegal y brutal de la casiterita; de la historia del hombre que construyó el barco Miss Rafiki durante la guerra a la vida salvaje y los gorillas del Parque Nacional de Kahuzi-Biega; las actividades veraniegas de los jóvenes de Bukavu o los comercios locales…

3TAMIS no se limita sólo a producir y proyectar películas, sino que también lleva sus producciones a lugares remotos de la provincia y abre debates sobre múltiples temas y, aún más interesante, muestran los documentales a sus protagonistas y reflexionan sobre los cambios que se han producido… ¿han cambiado en algo las políticas tras las denuncias?¿Se ha sensibilizado los habitantes de los problemas que genera permitir que los menores trabajen en las minas? ¿Ha resultado inspiradora la historia de vida la persona que superó las dificultades y creó un negocio exitoso en tiempos de guerra a pesar de las dificultades?¿Entienden la población las terribles consecuencias de la violación para la mujer, su familia, su comunidad y para la sociedad en general?

Para saber más de 3TAMIS podéis visitar su web en: http://www.3tamis.org/

Arriba podéis ver producción breve de 3TAMIS sobre la violencia sexual en la RDC.

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Elisa Garcia | Posted August 26th, 2009 | Africa

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AFEM Idwji
AFEM Idwji
A group of 26 women is ready to make a change in Idwji Island. Farmers, teachers and nurses, they begin to learn about their power and their importance for their territory.

This huge island of the Lake Kivu (250 squared-kilometres), full of beauties and natural richnesses, is a strange paradise where living conditions are very hard. The poverty is extreme, the education of the peoples is very poor and the rights of women are even more inexistent that in the other territories of South Kivu due to the absolute lack of education of the women (85%of illiteracy) and the oppressing cultural traditions and the given role to women.

One year ago, these women, after receiving training from the women of AFEM-SK decided to create an association to advocate for women´s rights in Idwji and thus, they created AFEM-Idwji. They depend on AFEM-SK, who are in charge of training the Idwjian women on: human rights, women´s rights, democracy literacy, good governance and basic journalistic techniques.

Today, the main activity of AFEM-Idwji is to support women whose rights are violated: women who are illegaly arrested, widows of polygamists who are repudiated or attacked by members of the man´s family, victims of the military that oblige them to pay illegal taxes, etc. They visit the victims, they expose the cases to the local authorities and report to the media.

They are now being trained to become local “journalists”, who are able to collect testimonies, interview authorities and create a basic script for a radio emission, so they can send the material to AFEM-SK in Bukavu, where the producers are in charge of producing the rdio shows that will be broadcasted in the regional radios.

The women of Idwji are very aware of their power and their importance and they really believe that they can change the lives of women. Until now they have advocated for the women´s rights in a local level but they now feel ready to become “journalists”, so the training and the support of the other women journalists is at this point is critical. I believe in these women to walked 30 kilometres at day to come to the training sessions, I believe in these women who have more that 10 children and support their husbands that want to go back to school, I believe in these women that are so willing to learn.

En Español: Luchando por los derechos de la mujer en la Isla de Idwji

Un grupo de 26 mujeres está preparado para cambiar la Isla de Idwji. Agricultoras, granjeras, maestras y enfermeras, están empezando a darse cuenta del poder que tienen y de su importancia en el territorio.

Esta enorme isla ubicada en el Lago Kivu (250 kilómetros cuadrados), llena de bellezas y riqueza naturales, es un extraño paraíso donde, sin embargo, las condiciones de vida son muy difíciles. La pobreza es extrema, la educación de las gentes es muy precaria y los derechos de las mujeres son aún más inexistentes que en otros territorios de Sud Kivu debido a la absoluta falta de educación de las mujeres (más de un 85% de analfabetismo femenino) y las tradiciones culturales opresoras y el rol atribuido a las mujeres. 

Hace un año, estas mujeres decidieron, después de recibir una formación a cargo de las mujeres de AFEM-SK, crear unas asociación para defender los derechos de las mujeres en Idwji y así surgió AFEM-Idwji. Dependen de AFEM-SK, que está a cargo de la formación de estas mujeres y promueve la educación en: derechos humanos, derechos de la mujer, democracia y técnicas básicas de periodismo. 

Hoy, la actividad principal de AFEM-Idwji es apoyar a las mujeres cuyos derechos han sido violados: mujeres que son arrestadas ilegalmente, viudas de polígamos que han sido repudiadas y maltratadas por la familia del marido, víctimas de los militares que les obligan a pagar impuestos ilegales, etc. Este grupo visita a las víctimas, expone el caso a las autoridades locales e informa a los medios de los abusos. 

Ahora están empezando a recibir formación para convertirse en una suerte de “periodistas” locales, para ser capaces de recoger testimonios, entrevistar a las autoridades y crear un guión radiofónico básico; de tal manera que puedan enviar el material a AFEM-SK en Bukavu, donde las productoras están a cargo de producir las emisiones de radio que serán difundidas desde las radios regionales. 

Las mujeres de Idwji son conscientes de su poder y de la importancia que van adquiriendo poco a poco y realmente creen en que pueden cambiar las vidas de las mujeres de la isla. Hasta ahora han abogado por los derechos de la mujer a nivel local pero ahora se sienten preparadas para convertirse en “periodistas”, por lo que el apoyo de las mujeres de AFEM es crítico. Yo creo en estas mujeres que han caminado 30 kilómetros cada día para asistir a las formaciones, yo creo en estas mujeres que tienen más de 10 hijos y apoyan a sus maridos que quieren volver a la escuela, yo creo en estas mujeres que tienen tantas ganas de aprender. 


  1. Concha says:

    I have no words to describe the lesson you are giving to us Elisa…

    Thanks for all news

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Elisa Garcia | Posted August 25th, 2009 | Africa

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Views from Idwji
Views from Idwji

I go to the port very early in the morning because I have assumed that the colour of my skin will make the procedure of crossing any border, leaving any port or taking off from any airport in the DRC more boring, stressing and annoying than usual. I am expecting anything.

After a boring, stressing and annoying procedure (I was right) I get onto the Mugote boat and I sit to wait for my colleagues from AFEM. Jolly Kamuntu makes it just before the boat leaves… I am already chewing the strips of my backpack, without her I am lost. She confesses that she has called to the port to say she was late; they know her. Who wouldn´t? She is on of the reporters of “the community radio” of the province… in a province where  media means radio and community radio means that the people have the right to speak.

While we are crossing the Lake Kivu in this amazingly stable boat Jolly and Kiza (from AFEM-Uvira) explain to me a litte bit about the women of Idwji and the programme for the following days. We are offered some cheese, bread and drinks and while I am thinking about the life in the huge island of Idwji I am wondering why are these Congolese so (randomly) quiet….and I realise that they are actually very concentrated on the TV, that shows (only shows because there is no volume -surrealistic Congo-) how Sally Field is trying to escape with her daughter in the streets of Teheran… Congo has the endless capacity to surprise me.

I decide to go out and enjoy the views…. we make it to Idwji some hours later. The car driver of Manvu hospital is waiting for us (it is the “ambulance” but as there are only three or four cars on the island he drives around all the time picking people up… in fact, on our way back we are: the journalists, a priest, two nuns, a very ill girl who gave birth two days ago and must have a sort of infection, her husband, two other women, a chicken and at least 35 pineapples). We drive through the villages and hills of southern Idwji Island til we make it to the parish of Kasofo, where we will be hosted. 

There are three priests in this huge catholic parish: Abbé Francois, Abbé Rogatien and Abbé Gustave. They are great, wellcoming and very well educated, so they are an amazing source of valuable information about the life of the islanders. Apart from the ministerial activities (mess and sacraments) they run: a guesthouse and a mixed boarding school. The parrish is one of the centres of the social life in the area and the morning mess (6.30 a.m) is quite an interesting experience (drums, singing, dancing…).

During the following days I discover that Idwji is a strange paradise (the only territory of South Kivu with no armed groups and insecurity) where all tropical fruits (and anything) grow. The peoples are humble and wellcoming, the landscapes are breathtaking, it is never hot due to its hight and there are no mosquitos… the poverty, the lack of education and the absence of drinking water make of Idwji a complicated eden where you can eat as much pineapple as you want.

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Serge, Didace and Koko

Elisa Garcia | Posted August 24th, 2009 | Africa

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Freedom of speech
Freedom of speech

I just came back to Bukavu and so soon I have been confronted with the terrible reality. Everyone in the office is discussing about it… another journalist has been murdered in Bukavu. Koko Chirambize, a 24-year-old reporter of Radio Star was stabbed to death on Saturday night, when he was coming back from a wedding. The reason of his murder is not clear yet, there are some that say that it is just a result of Bukavu´s insecurity situation and the growing criminality; others say that he was reporting about very touchy issues… let´s hope to learn the truth about it at some point.

In any case, he is the third journalist to be murdered in Bukavu in the last two years: Serge Mahese, a human rights activist and journalist of Radio Okapi was gunned down on the 13th of June of 2007; Didace Namujimbo, also from Radio Okapi was killed by a shot to the head on the 21st of November of 2008; and, Koko Cjirambize, stabbed on saturday on his way home. 

Today the journalists of Bukavu are in mourning and I ask to myself… when will this all end? When will the journalists be able to do their job without risking their lives every single day? It is so unfair and stupid, this country needs freedom of speech to keep growing and to reach a peaceful coexistence… is it so hard to understand?

You can check more detailed information in: 




En español: Serge, Didace y Koko

Acabo de volver a Bukavu y me he encontrado con la realidad de frente. Todo el mundo en la oficina está hablando de ello… han asesinado a otro periodista en Bukavu. Koko Chirambize, un periodista de 24 años, reportero de Radio Star, fue acuchillado hasta la muerte el sábado por la noche, cuando volvía de una boda. El motivo del asesinato es desconocido, algunos afirman que es sólo el reflejo de la inseguridad de la ciudad y de la creciente criminalidad y otros creen que había informado sobre cuestiones delicadas que puedes haber herido sensibilidades… en todo caso, esperamos conocer la verdad en algún punto.  

Este es el tercer periodista asesinado en Bukavu en os últimos años: Serge Mahese, activista de los derechos humanos y periodista de Radio Okapi, fue tiroteado el 13th de Junio de 2007; Didace Namujimbo, también reportero de Radio Okapi fue asesinado por un tiro en la cabeza el 21 de Noviembre de 2008; y, Koko Chirambize el sábado pasado. 

Hoy, los periodistas de la ciudad están en duelo. Y me pregunto ¿cuándo acabrá todo esto?¿cuándo podrán los periodistas congoleños trabajar sin arriesgar sus vidas cada día?. Es injusto y estúpido, este país necesita la libertad de expresión para crecer y para vivir en paz… ¿es tan difícil de entender?

Para obtener una información detallada, he adjuntado una serie de links en la versión en inglés.

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Heading to the Island of Idwji with Jolly Kamuntu

Elisa Garcia | Posted August 18th, 2009 | Africa

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Tomorrow, or thursday, depending on the boats that cross the Lake Kivu I will leave Bukavu and I will head to the Island of Idjwi with Jolly Kamuntu to train a group of women of Iwdji. I am quite excited because I am going to one of the most beautiful, remote and interesting places in the DRC (no electrity, no running water, indigenous populations, subsistence agriculture…) and because I am going with Jolly Kamuntu, the president of AFEM and a brilliant journalist.

Jolly Kamuntu
Jolly Kamuntu

We are preparing our trip and having a lovely chat. Jolly is telling me about her last encounter with Laurent Nkunda, the fallen leader of the CNDP and one of the main figures and keys to understand the ongoing violence in Eastern Congo and I sit back in my chair. I can´t believe that this cheerful woman, with the aspect of a nice antie, has made her way twice (once in 2004, after the siege of the city of Bukav and other in 2008, after the attack over Goma) to the lands of Masisi (up North in Nord Kivu, quite a journey from Bukavu!) to meet Laurent Nkunda as ask him why, if he said that he desired peace, he kept on using the violence. “Do you think that the only way to protect the peoples and to achieve the peace is using weapons? Do you think that we can have peace while the peoples of Bukavu remember what you and your men did in 2004? Jolly is sharp, she is a good journalists and has the right questions. She is not afraid of finding the answers.

She is, without doubt, one of the boldest and best-trained journalists in Sud Kivu. She studied law at university in Bukavu and soon, when she was still studying at college, she began to work as journalist in the local catholic Radio Maria and since then she has seized multiple trainings given by UN agencies and media NGOs all over Africa and she has become an expert on legal issues&social justice pleas.

She has been the specialist of Radio Maedeleo for legal processes for six years, she writes in the radio´s journalist, she is a blogger (check it in www.kamuntu.wordpress.com), she colaborates with a French on-line journal (www.congoblog.net) as a correspondant in Sud Kivu, she collaborates with the Dutch NGO La Benevolencija as a consultant to produce the radio shows on Social Justice and she is the president of AFEM-SK.

She finds time to polish her nails, collaborate with Spanish blogs, take care of her children, train rural women on journalistic techniques in the frame of AFEM´s activities, meet the rural members of AFEM and meet with me to take to show me the newsrooms where she works.

The radical stregth of this Congolese journalist tells us about the incredible task that these women are slowly accomplishing; she is now pregnant, but no one has been able to persuade her to stay in the city, where things are calm.

“Could everyone stay arms-crossed?If everyone shuts up who is going to denounce what is happening?” She states that she has to keep on going, even if she is unpaid, or doesn´t get enough sleep or if she has a little baby, because she has been trained to do it.

No words. No words to describe her. No words.

One Response to “Heading to the Island of Idwji with Jolly Kamuntu”

  1. Jaime says:

    I admire all of you, your work and commitment.
    I am also frightened. From my desk in spain, your descriptions sound worrying, no way out of that feeling.
    My consolation is that your work be a contribution to making things better.
    Take care,

    with love,


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Elisa Garcia | Posted August 14th, 2009 | Africa

Joelle, Pascaline&Douce
Joelle, Pascaline&Douce
“We can´t stop our work because there is insecurity… we know our job is a dangerous job, but we love it. There is no doubt about the commitment and passion of these young Congolese women for the journalis; as they prepare their 3-4 days trips to different territories of Sud Kivu I try to imagine how they plan and develop their job in such situation.

Things are not better in the rural areas of Sud Kivu, but at least we begin to have some information and knowledge about the impact of Kimya II on the civilian´s lives. The joint UN-Congolese army military operation to track the FDLR troops out of the Eastern Congolese lands, where they have been settled for over 15 years, has resulted on a terrible revenge against civilians and a massive displacement of some Sud Kivusians populations, worsening the humanitarian crisis that the Eastern regions have faced during the last decade: daily violence, food scarcety, unemployment, violence against women, absence of justice, etc.

The vocation of the women journalists of AFEM is to report about the abuses against women and to promote the women´s rights through their radio productions. Their journalistic work normally takes place in the rural areas and most of their parallel work as trainers does also take place in the remote rural areas of the province of Sud Kivu. During the month of July they couldn´t leave the city, it was too dangerous to take the roads, mostly when they don´t have a car or a chauffer, so they decided to continue with the advocacy activities with local authorities and the training and reciclyng of the members. They created some new projects and evaluated the activities that they had carried out during the last months. 

In August, understading that the situation is not due to change, they have began their fieldtrips; they will travel in couples to do training and interviews in: Kabare, Kalehe, Idwji, Mwenga, Nyangezi, Fizi, Uvira and Walungu. In each of the territories they will train a group of rural women on journalistic techniques and they will prepare a series of different radio shows on different general issues.  

The main focus will be on the problem of sexual violence and they will produce 5 radio shows for each territory approaching different themes: current situation in the territory, medical assistance, psicosocial assistance, socio-economic assistance, legal situation and prosecution and situation of the children of victims. 

This is the plan… I will tell you about the result when they come back…

En español: “No podemos dejar de hacer nuestro trabajo sólo porque es peligroso”

“No podemos dejar de hacer nuestro trabajo porque haya inseguridad… sabemos que nuestro trabajo es peligroso, pero nos gusta”. Ni cabe duda alguna acerca del compromiso y pasión por el periodismo de estas jóvenes congoleñas; mientras preparan sus viajes a terreno de 3 a 4 días a los diferentes territorios de la provincia intento imaginar cómo planifican y desarrollan su trabajo en un contexto tan difícil.

Las cosas no han mejorado en el interior, en las áreas rurales de Sud Kivu, pero por lo menos empezamos a tener información y conocimiento del impacto real de la operación militar Kimya II en las vidas de los civiles. La operación conjunta de la ONU y el ejército regular congoleño que pretende expulsar las tropas del Frente Patriótico Ruandés asentado en la zona desde los años 90 ha resultado ser letal para los civiles ya que se suman las venganzas y los desplazamientos, empeorando la crisis humanitaria que ha asolado a la región oriental del Congo en el último lustro:  violencia diaria, hambrunas, violencia sexual contra mujeres, ausencia de justicia, etc.

La vocación de las mujeres periodistas de AFEM es informar acerca de los abusos contra mujeres y promover los derechos de las mujeres a través de la emisión de sus programas de radio. Suelen desarrollar su trabajo en las zonas rurales y casi todo su trabajo de formación en materia de humanos también tiene lugar en el las remotas áreas de la provincia de Sud Kivu. Durante el mes de Julio no han podido trabajar fuera de la ciudad, ya que era peligroso tomar las carreteras, más aún cuando ellas no poseen ni coche propio ni chófer; así que decidieron continuar con sus actividades de denuncia y acción política y de formación y reciclaje de sus miembros. Además, se han dedicado a crear nuevos proyectos y evaluar las actividades que han desarrollado en los últimos meses. 

En Agosto, entendiendo que la situación no va a cambiar, han relanzado sus viajes al terreno: viajarán por parejas para haecr formaciones y reportajes en: Kabare, Kalehe, Idwji, Mwenga, Nyangezi, Fizi, Uvira y Walungu. En cada uno de los territorios formarán a un grupo de mujeres rurales en técnicas básicas de periodismo y preparán una serie de programas de radio en diferentes temas. Los reportajes se centrarán principalmente en el problema de la violencia sexual; así, cada pareja de periodistas producirá cinco programas sobre cada territorio centrándose en cinco temas: situación actual del problema en el territorio; asistencia médica; asistencia psicosocial; asistencia socioeconómica; persecución legal de los crímenes;  y situación de los niños nacidos como resultado de la violencia.  

Este es el plan… ya os contaré cómo ha ido cuando vuelvan…

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“I feel free when I give voice to the voiceless”

Elisa Garcia | Posted August 6th, 2009 | Africa

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Joelle Nyarwaya is 22. She was born in Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Zaire) but when she was very young she moved with her family to Rwanda, where his father worked as a nurse for Medecins sans Frontières. The situation of the small African country in the early nineties was critical, years of inestability and violence had caused a humanitarian crisis and the poverty of the population was outrageous. In 1994, during the Genocide, Joelle was evacuated to the Congo with her family, along with many Congolese citizens that lived in Rwanda.

Back in Congo, she had trouble at school because she was a very timid and she was not fluent in Kiswahili. She was then encouraged to join the “Children Parliament of Sud Kivu”, an organization that gathered different kids from the province to reflect, discuss and speak about children´s rights and about the problems of children in the region: children soldiers, orphans, children prostitutes, victims of violence, ect.

During these years she developed a huge empathy and communication skills. She early discoverd her calling: giving voice to the voiceless. She was elected as spokesperson of the parliament and she carried on with this activity until she was chosen to join the team of children journalists in Centre Lokole (Search for Common Ground) in 2003.

This is how she became a “child journalist” and she joined the team of  “Sisi watoto” (We, the children), the radio show of the NGO Search for Common Ground. In this radio show, they addressed different problems of the children in the DRC. For the children, made by children. She worked for this project for some years, until she was 20.

By then, Joelle had acquired a very solid training in journalism, so she was hired in the South Kivu Women´s Media Association (AFEM-SK).  Since then she has been a member of the permanent staff and she is one of the three women journalists in charge of the production of monographic radio shows on women´s rights, good governance, peacebuilding and gender based sexual violence 

The current situation of the women in the Congolese province of South Kivu is difficult: the sexual violence continues and thousands of victims are unattended. The hard work of women activists is far from recognized, the number of women in politics is very low and the representation of the women in the media is poor, but far from disencouraged, she firmly believes that they are operating a radical change in the region.

She thinks that just the fact of being present, speaking about women´s stories and letting the voice of the women be heard is already something. It is inspiring to listen to hear… so young and so strong. She believes that giving her voice to people that don´t have access to the media makes her and them more free.

She is leaving Kalehe on a new mission, one of the territories of Sud Kivu… attacks to civilians, insecurity in the roads, military control… but there is not a shade of fear or doubt in her eyes. 

En español: “Me siento libre cuando le doy voz a los sinvoz”

Joelle Nyarwaya tiene 22 años. Nació en la República Democrática del Congo (entonces Zaire) pero cuando era pequeña se fue a vivir con su familia a Ruanda, donde su padre trabajaba como enfermero con Médicos sin Fronteras. La situación del pequeño país africano a principios de los 90 era crítica, los años de inestabilidad y violencia había creado una aguda crisis humanitaria y la pobreza era tenaz. En 1994, durante el Genocidio, Joelle fue evacuada y volvió al Congo con su familia.

De vuelta en el Congo, tuvo problemas en el colegio porque era una niña muy tímida y no hablaba bien el suajili. Fue entonces cuando la animaron a participar en el Parlamento de los Niños de Sud Kivu, una organización que reunía a niños de diferentes zonas de la provincia con el fin de reflexionar, aprender y fomentar los derechos de la infancia; en este proyecto trabajaban especialmente los derechos de niños en dificultad: niños soldados, huérfanos, niños de la calle, niñas prostitutas, víctimas de violencia, ect.

Durante estos años Joelle desarrolló una gran empatía y habilidades sociales y de comunicación, descubriendo muy precozmente su vocación: dar voz a los sinvoz. Así, fue elegida somo portavoz del parlamento y continuó siéndolo hasta 2003, año en el que fue seleccionada para formar parte de un proyecto de niños periodistas en el Centre Lokole (Search for Common Ground).

Se convirtió en una “joven periodista” del equipo del programa “Sisi watoto” (Nosotros los niños), el programa de radio de ONG Search for Common Ground. En este programa abordaban diferentes problemas de los niños en la RDC; un programa para niños, hecho por niños. Trabajó durante años en este proyecto, hasta que cumplió los 20 años. 

Para entonces, Joelle había adquirido una sólida formación como periodista y fue contratada por la Association de Femmes de Médias de Sud Kivu (AFEM-SK). Desde entonces es parte del equipo y su cometido es producir programas de radio monográficos sobre los derechos de la mujer, el buen gobierno, la construcción de paz y la violencia sexual.  

La situación actual de las mujeres en la provincia congoleña de Sud Kivu es difícil: la violencia sexual continúa y hay muchas víctimas que no han recibido asistencia. El trabajo de las activistas no se reconoce en las políticas ni en las mesas de negociación de paz, la participación de las mujeres en la política es baja; la representación de las mujeres en los medios es pobre, tanto como sujeto de la información como productoras de información… pero lejos de rendirse ella cree que verdaderamente están generando un cambio en su provincia. Cree que el mero hecho de que las mujeres estén presentes en los medios, contando historias sobre mujeres y dándoles voz es mucho y supone un cambio radical.

Es emocionante escucharla…tan joven y tan fuerte. Afirma que dando voz a aquellos que no tienen acceso a los medios le hace más libre. Está preparando su viaje a terreno, marcha a Kalehe, uno de los territorios de Sud Kivu… ataques a civiles, inseguridad en las carreteras, control militar… y ni una sombra de duda o de miedo en sus ojos. 

One Response to ““I feel free when I give voice to the voiceless””

  1. Luz says:

    uffff…se me ponen los pelos de punta!! y tan solo es un año mayor que yo…

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Fellow: Elisa Garcia

BVES in the Democratic Republic of Congo


Add new tag AFEM AFEM-SK attacks to civilians Beginning BUkavu BVES community radio Congo culture customs DRC endangered journalists freedom of speech GBSV horror humanitarian crisis Human righst Idwji Island impunity international organizations Island of Idwji Joelle Nyarwaya Jolly Kamuntu Kimya II Lake Kivu limnic eruption paradise People pineapples radio and peacebuilding Radio Maendeleo Radio Okapi Radio Star Sexual violemce against women sexual violence Sexual violence against women silence Sud Kivu tilapia training women journalists women of Sud Kivu women training women´s rights




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