In late November the AZUR Development organization's AIDS Rights Congo project participated in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign, using blogs, cell phones, and radio broadcasts to raise awareness. This international campaign to fight violence against women takes place annually from November 25 (International Day Against Violence Against Women) to December 10 (International Human Rights Day).
AZUR Development is based in Brazzaville, Congo, but they work to provide leadership in the socio-cultural and economic development of all of Congo. They launched the AIDS Rights Congo project last year with the help of a Rising Voices micro grant. Through this project they are training communication officers and leaders of local HIV and AIDS organizations in digital story telling, podcasting, and blogging to help document the stigma and discrimination faced by people infected by HIV/AIDS in Congo.
During the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, AIDS Rights Congo participated in Take Back The Tech's campaign to reclaim information and communication technologies to end violence against women. As part of this, AIDS Rights Congo blogged about the rights of women infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and shared their thoughts on violence against women.
AIDS Rights Congo also aired radio broadcasts in Pointe-Noire from December 1 to 10 on the topic of violence against women. To encourage people to reclaim technology such as cell phones to achieve positive outcomes, they asked listeners to send SMS messages or call in with their thoughts on the issue. As incentive, two mobile phones were awarded to listeners who sent SMS messages appealing to fight sexual violence against women and girls in Pointe-Noire. Sylvie Niombo, the project’s leader, talks about reactions to their broadcasts:
The SMS response was huge and the responses will be online soon. The SMS talks about sexual violence, and domestic violence against women and girls. It was a good way of expression. And then after posting them on the Internet, we will invite readers to comment.
AIDS Rights Congo has already posted some of the SMS responses, which show how Congolese women and girls experience domestic and sexual violence, and how men perceive violence against women.. For example, this post lists SMS responses received from Congolese women who have suffered violence because of their husbands:
Despite all forms of violence that I suffer at the hands of my husband, I consider them as accidents and I think he will change. We are forced to suffer all forms of violence, because we love our men, despite their violence, and also because of the children. And sometimes we don't have a good social situation, because there is nothing for us anymore at our parents’ home. Yes, you're scared of losing our home if ever we think to lodge a complaint or ask ourselves where will we live, especially when you don't work. We don't know who to turn to when we are victims of violence, because our friends give bad advice. For fear of further abuse, we are sometimes obliged to go along with the decisions of our husbands, even when they are bad. My husband asked me for forgiveness only once since we've been together. Why don't you raise these kinds of issues all the time? Thank you for the advice. Does justice really care about these kinds of problems? When I went to the police (PSP), I was told we had to settle amicably, because he is my husband.
In this post, AIDS Rights Congo shares SMS messages sent by men expressing their thoughts on violence against women:
Men taking alcohol is one of the main causes of men beating women. I would say that domestic violence is a strategy for men to have control of the home, and so the family in general. For if a man is not violent, the woman does not pay attention to you. If my wife takes me to court, I drive her out of my home. I replace her with another. Many women enjoy violence to live well. Sometimes the women themselves are the causes of the violence against them. Our women are truly victims, because they don't dare speak for fear of being hit again. When a man marries, he must give laws. If these laws are not respected? It is important to apply force.
In addition to the work done with the AIDS Rights Congo project, AZUR Development also carried out other activities in Pointe-Noire during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. They held a workshop to raise awareness on violence against women, sexuality, and HIV/AIDS, which was attended by more than 160 women, as well as advocacy meetings defending the rights of HIV-positive women and their families.
Translations of French blog posts into English by Jennifer Brea.