Men’s Conference delegates troop to DR Congo as President Kagame leads meeting

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame (second from left)  leading a walk in Kigali on April 7, 2017. [Courtesy]

Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday, November 25, played host to the first formal intercountry Men’s Conference presided over by Presidents of DR Congo and Rwanda.

The one-day conference, which was held in DR Congo’s capital Kinshasa, was organised by the African Union (AU).

The theme of the session was titled “ending violence against women and girls”.

Those who attended the event included leaders from the private sector, religious institutions, government, policy makers, young men, among others.

Countries which had representatives at the conference are DR Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Ghana, Liberia, among others.

A few women, including former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, were allowed to attend the conference.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, who was the chief guest at the event, arrived in Kinshasa at 12:40pm on Thursday.

He was received at the N'djili International Airport by DR Congo’s Prime Minister Sama Lukonde.

AU chairperson Félix Tshisekedi, who is also the President of DR Congo, said there was need to address gender-based violence against women and girls before the cases reach crisis levels.

In the continent, East and Southern Africa regions have high rates of sexual violence against women and girls, the United Nations Population Fund says.

In seven countries, around 20 per cent of those aged 15 to 24 years reported they had experienced sexual violence from an intimate partner.

Sexual violence against early adolescents aged 15 years and below is highest in the conflict and post-conflict countries of the DRC, Mozambique, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

The UN says violence against women goes beyond beatings.

“It includes forced marriage, dowry-related violence, marital rape, sexual harassment, intimidation at work and in educational institutions, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, forced sterilisation, trafficking and forced prostitution,” says UN in its Africa Renewal online magazine.

The high rate of violence against women and girls (VAW) in Africa is maintained by the persistence of harmful gender norms, alcohol use and overall increased poverty, violence in urban slum areas and conflict areas.

Partner violence and the fear of abuse prevent girls from refusing sex and jeopardise their ability to negotiate condom use, studies in Sub-Saharan Africa show.

The conference delegates resolved to continuously engage with AU citizens through comprehensive advocacy and media campaign.

Terming the conference as “very important”, and that “men have a crucial role in ensuring violence against women and girls is eliminated”, Kagame said the meeting also provided an opportunity for DR Congo and Rwanda to “renew the friendship and cooperation between our two brotherly countries”.

In Kenya, statistics show that about 41 per cent of women reported having experienced physical or sexual violence from their husbands or partners in their lifetime. About two-fifths of those women reported physical injuries from the violence.