She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “We have to work together for a better world” … and she notes: “It has not always been easy, considering the lack of financial support I face in running my organization. The African culture too has been misconstrued to keep women silent about violation of their rights or the defense of her rights when violated by her husband. Society and certain women do not make it easy”, she is quoted in ‘Diagnostic’, a UN Newsletter. “Unfortunately we often notice that the worst enemies of the woman are her fellow women. Congolese women do not realize that when they go against other women, they perpetuate their inferior status in society and frustrate efforts to improve their condition.”
Viviane Bikuba Cibalonza – Dem. Republic of the Congo
She works for Action for Law Education (AED),
and for the Centre d’Assistance Medico-Juridique (CAMEJ).
Viviane Bikuba (36) is a lawyer and founder of Action for Law Education (AED) and Center for Medical-Judicial Assistance (CAMEJ). She defends and promotes human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes Region. She specialized in human rights, pacification and specifically the fight against torture.
She says also: “We realized that violence against women was on the increase and especially in South Kivu. The victims were suffering from medico-sanitary problems that aggravated their trauma. The different forms of violence against women were identified as: violence by fellow women (family members, in-laws or neighbors), domestic rape or forced prostitution, notably from public servants who were no longer receiving their salaries and forced girls into prostitution and sexual harassment”.
She is also a member the local of Caucus of Congolese Women For Peace from South Kivu, Network of Human Rights Defense Association in South Kivu, (RADOSKI), Network of The Great Lakes Region and the Fight for Brigitte Betancourt’s Freedom at international level.
In 2001 from AED, CAMEJ was created. It is a Medical-Judicial Assistance Center that specializes in violence against women.
Since 1994, Viviane has conducted workshops, seminars and radio programs to promote women rights and assist victims of sexual violence. In collaboration with other women organizations, Viviane provides legal counsel and mediation to expose and train women on human rights.
She illustrates her point, saying, “On 8th March 2000, in Bukavu, we organized a rally under the theme: “More Power to Women”. On the day our march was cancelled and public authorities ridiculed the organizers. Do you think our women reacted? Oh, No! They even denounced all the women whom they said were lowering themselves by taking part in politics and were therefore in conflict with the culture of our people.”
As a result of these attitudes and in order to avoid conflict, victims of violation call the members of CAMEJ, who opt for mediation in order to avoid the breaking up families. They consider this a viable solution to domestic violence.
Viviane says that, “Congolese men are obstinate and do not easily accept that their wives can rebel and accuse them. We attempt mediation so as not to annoy the men. When mediation fails, the women have recourse to legal assistance; but legal suits can take long and be complicated.” She adds: “Each month we have approximately 25 new mediation cases against three or four law suits.”
In the case of rape, legal assistance is immediately proposed. However, Viviane mentions that most of the time, the victims cannot identify their rapist which renders the lawsuit impossible. She says rape is more common in rural areas, where 90% of the perpetrators are from the military, whom the women fear immensely. When the women cannot identify the rapists, CAMEJ determines which armed group was in the area during the time of the rape, identifies its commander and classifies this information.
The article in Diagnostic concludes with Viviane expressing her fears and hopes: “Until the day when a competent authority will render justice and bring an end to unpunished crime, women will suffer. We hope the International Penal Court (IPC) will judge not only the crimes committed in Ituri, but also those committed in South Kivu.”
She knows how it feels to lack competent assistance: She lost her father, a civil servant in DRC, early in her life. This resulted in her family being victimized, submitted to injustice, rights’ violation and discrimination. She recalls how they only survived due to her mother’s courage and legendary African solidarity.
When she grew up she opted to study law in order to fight injustice. She became the first female lawyer from the ancient Kivu region, (currently known as North, South Kivu and Maniema) and is a role model for her countrywomen and men.
After the infamous Rwandan Genocide in 1994, war ravaged the DRC and Viviane witnessed many forms of injustice on the social, judicial, political and international levels. It was then that she decided to campaign for peace.
She trained and got involved in human rights and decided to advocate for peace as a primary condition to eradicate injustice in the Great Lakes Region. Her efforts opened her an opportunity to train on “Peaceful Conflict Resolution”, organized by the UN Human Rights Office in partnership with the Belgium Government.
She discloses that her relentlessness is driven by the movements lead by Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela who believed in passive resistance and realized their dreams.
This married mother is also motivated by the results she gets when she acts as the voice of the voiceless, the poor and other groups of disadvantaged people. Her work has awakened the conscience of illiterate women who now fight for their rights.
As the first female lawyer from South Kivu, she encourages other women lawyers to freely defend women’s rights by creating NGOs that advocate the same.
Despite the realities of human rights’ violations she wants everyone to “work together for a better world.” (1000PeaceWomen).
Lire: articles sur ‘avenir femmes’;
Lire: Viviane Cibalonza Bikuba : ‘La femme est lié par un carcan culturel dont elle ne sait pas encore se défaire totalement‘, Par E. Tshibuabua.
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