She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
Gege Katana Bukuru (44) is called the “Iron lady” in Uvira, South Kivu province, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She earned this name for her courageous activism for women’s rights and the rights of other oppressed people. She has been imprisoned several times and witnessed others being tortured. Despite the pain of being betrayed, Gege will not abandon her people …
She says: “What gives me energy is the success in the setting-up of peace centers in villages: our principle of non-violence in action”.
She says also: … “Among the constraints and the threats I have faced are torture and intimidation, and lack of freedom of movement from 1996 to 2003 … and: “there has been high treaso” by other women whose ambitions were to divide and rule through ethnic divisions. Other colleagues, friends and neighbors abandoned me for fear of threats by different armed groups” … (1000peacewomen 1/2)
Lives blown apart: Despite the desperate situation in DRC much good work goes on. Gégé Katana Bukuru has set up an organisation for training women activists and helping people stand up for their rights.
Watch a video of an interview with Gégé Katana Bukuru, Sofad.
Gege Katana Bukuru – Dem. Rep. Congo
She works for the Solidarity of Activist Women for Human Rights SOFAD.
… She has lived through robbery, systematic looting of her belongings and trauma. Despite the pain and the odds, Gege picks herself up, forgives and continues to unite people. She is driven by a desire to serve her people.
She is the eldest daughter of a traditional chief, Katana, who instilled in her a strong conscience of her responsibilities toward her people.Gege is religious, though not very verbal about it. Her deep spiritual life enables her to sacrifice even when others abandon her. Her belief in God helps her focus on her tasks despite her personal shortcomings. She can identify people and circumstances that are resourceful for her activities. Her ability to express herself clearly and simply earns her the respect of even her opponents. Her frail appearance hides her perseverance and the strong will that has earned her the nickname “Iron Lady”.
Gege holds a degree from the National University. She was trained in the Pedro Freire Method in Mauritius in 1983 and has attended group advisor training at the Iwacu centre in Rwanda in 1990. In 1991 she attended training at the Pan African Institute. She has also conducted research and participatory training in ARDI in Kigali and rural mobilization from the Study, Research and Documentation Centre in 1992. She has been involved in the defense and protection of human rights since 1981. Gege’s other activities involve the structuring the rural environment, providing adult education and promoting community development.
In 1998, she entered the world of women’s associations. Gege says: “I was pushed into peace work because there no women’s structures existed to combat the multiple violations of human rights during armed conflicts.” In 2003 she became a member of the consultative team of the Global Fund for Women. This dynamic activist is now a coordinator of Solidarity of Activist Women for Human Rights (Sofad). Gege has initiated groups of women leaders and organized campaigns to support victims of sexual violence. These campaigns are replicated in other provinces such as Maniema and Goma. Her initiatives have helped 1700 women who received medical care for one and a half years. The workshops, training and advocacy and peace centers Gege initiated in villages have earned her respect in many provinces. In addition to defending womens’ and children’s rights, Sofad also assists women and girls who are victims of sexual violence, through medical, psychosocial and judicial support. Sofad also fights against the spread of small arms in Eastern DRC.
Gege’s network is composed of many women at grassroots level in the region. Sofad members are determined to realize peace cells and structure women’s activities in order to sensitize more women about their rights. Gege says that the direct beneficiaries of Sofad activities are the 1250 women members spread out in 50 peace centers; chiefs of quarters and groups; women victims of rape and violence; the youth, the theatre and song for peace groups. She says the indirect beneficiaries are all the people of around Uvira and Fizi.
Gege is known as the representative of women’s voices and often works with Aimee Biamungu, another Iron Lady. In an effort to activate the peace cells, six women leaders from the Uvira region created a centre where people can be heard. Sofad also works in collaboration with other institutions working for peace, for the protection of human rights and NGO’s involved in local and international development. At international level Sofad partners with Amnesty International, PBI and Front Line. Gege’s contributions in social and political forums are respected and often help in calming explosive situations.It is through Gege’s efforts that a woman’s place in her society has gained value. Gege fights for the reform of laws and the punishment of violators of human rights. She believes in the unification and democratization of the DRC.
Parallel to her activism, Gege uses the media to reach out to the public and has published several articles. In the newsletter “La Dignité” (Dignity), which writes on human rights, she wrote an article titled the “myth or reality on equality of men and women”. Her other articles include: “Literacy opening consciences to sustainable development”; “Women of Uvira facing food crisis”; “Reflections on the impact of the proliferation of small arms on women in DRC”. She also contributed to the 2003 Report on “Arms proliferation: massive violations of humanity and women’s violence in RDC”. Gege’s vision is for women to enjoy their rights without restrictions, injustice and fear. (1000peacewomen 2/2).
She says also: “As an advisor, I’m concerned with living and witnessing the harmful effects of armed conflicts that continue to burden women, including rape, sexual violence, the persistence of women’s poverty, insecurity in the region and the low levels of representation of women in decision-making” … (full text).
Women from Kivu speak out: Editorial – The intercongolese dialogue, promised and awaited for many months seems to have come back into the news since the assassination of Kabila in January 2001. Pole Institute did not wait for this to happen before continuing her work of bringing together the different points of view of the men and women of Kivu. Up to now, we have published two editions on the intercongolese dialogue, with analyses and opinions of actors on
the social and civil scene. We want to give them a platform to express themselves, these men and women who do not have special access to the international media. This of course fits into the framework of values promoted by Pole Institute: tolerance and mutual respect, looking each person in the eye, to arrain the goal of peaceful cohabitation of communities, and mutual enrichment of cultures … (full text, 93 pages).
Video en neerlandais: 5 vrouwen voor mensenrechten.
Dimitra Newsletter: RURAL WOMEN AND DEVELOPMENT, 24 pages, N° 13 – Brussels, September 2007;
Human Rights Defenders On the Front Line – ANNUAL REPORT 2001, The observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, 75 pages, Fed. Internat. des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme FIDH;
Les défenseurs des droits de l’Homme en première ligne, RAPPORT ANNUEL 2001, L’observatoire pour la protection des défenseurs des droits de l’Homme, 74 pages, Fed. Internat. des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme FIDH;
Bono fier du rôle irlandais en Afrique.