Today marks an important day for the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is Election Day and people are going to the polls. In the Congo, this takes real courage. On the eve of the election, Sunday evening, ten civilians were already reported dead. This is a democratic vote but while widespread corruption and violence abound, it is unclear what the civilian price to cast ballots will be.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is marred with stories of violence, rape, poverty and war so for many it comes as no surprise that this will not be a peaceful federal election. However, War Child has been working in the Congo since 2004 and has seen extraordinary civilians and community groups who are – against all odds – setting the groundwork for change. In climates of chaos and conflict, unsung heroes are vehemently pressing forward and giving communities hope for a brighter future. The Founder of War Child’s newest partner is one of these heroes.
Mme Sango Batendji – or Mama Sango as she is known in the community – is the Founder of Fédération des femmes pour le Développement (FFD). FFD is a sisterhood of women who have been hard at work for over a decade, defending women’s rights against a backdrop of routine sexual violence.
FFD operates five safe houses for victims of sexual violence and manages a safe haven for women who have lost hope. To understand why Mama Sango’s efforts are so significant is to understand the context in which Congolese women live. Sexual abuse, kidnappings, sexual slavery and forced marriages are common crimes committed against women and girls. Despite the shocking statistics, prosecutions are rare and impunity for crimes is pervasive. In order to address these issues, War Child is working to promote and protect women and children’s rights, and we are proud to now be working with Mama Sango to achieve this.
It is because of partners like FFD that War Child’s work is able to continue in some of the worst flashpoints around the world. There cannot be development or security without the rule of law. There cannot be peace where impunity pervades. And there cannot be stability when justice remains elusive. It is only when violence no longer goes unchecked that societies can truly look forward and children can begin to believe that there are brighter horizons ahead. Mama Sango and her extraordinary organization are leading the way.