An interview Babunga S. Nyota, Fundraising and Communication Manager, Fonds pour les Femmes Congolaises-
The Fund for Congolese Women – Fonds pour les Femmes Congolaises – is the first non-governmental Congolese fund mobilizing financial and technical resources to support organizations and networks of women and girls, with or without legal status, who promote women’s rights from the roots. Babunga Nyota shares her story and theirs.
How did you come to be involved with Fonds pour les Femmes Congolaises (FFC)?
I first encountered women’s human rights work in 2007, when I was working for the New Field Foundation and Fahamu as an interpreter. I had no idea about human rights, let alone women’s rights. Though I knew what was “good” and “bad” at the time, I was not interested in women’s human rights work because, for me, those words meant that women wanted to dominate men.
In 2009, I had the opportunity to work with the Norwegian Church Aid in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). While with them, I often visited camps in the field and started to notice how hard life was for Congolese women who had been forced to leave their homes due to conflict. I became interested in women’s human rights as I began to see how unfairly women are treated.
I started working for Urgent Action Fund-Africa in 2011 and had the opportunity to read about all the atrocities women were facing. I wanted to do something to help change women’s situation, but I didn’t have the confidence until I had a fruitful conversation with an activist who told me, “We are fighting against violence done to women; be it a man or a woman who does it, we will still fight. It is not good for women to be oppressed in any situation by anyone.” That is when I decided to engage in this work. I also wanted to give back to my country, having known what it is to be a refugee and what it is like when your rights are not respected. When FFC published an open position that year, I applied. I am happy to work for the promotion of women’s rights in my country.
What does philanthropy look like in the DRC?
DRC people love giving, as is the culture in the whole of Africa. The only challenge is the context of the country does not allow them to give as much as they might want to contribute. People help here and there, and church groups also assist, but I don’t know of any other local philanthropy group in the DRC.
There are many international actors in the country who receive a considerable amount of funds, while a small percentage reaches the grassroots organizations. This was the reason for the creation of FFC: we fundraise to support small organizations that are not able to access funding.
What are some of the challenges FFC has faced working in the DRC?
I would say there is a lot to do in terms of educating the population on women’s human rights. FFC has been working in a context where some tribes were in conflicts and thus, at times, it is hard for them to work together. But with sensitization and work on peaceful living, women are able to come together to promote their mutual rights.
A big logistical challenge is travelling and communicating within the country. Transport can be difficult due to the prices of tickets, and many remote communities lack internet access and calling networks. Some of our grantees are forced to travel long distances in order to access internet or open a bank account. We work with humanitarian flights that make it easy for us to move in the country and conduct our activities.
Why is FFC well positioned to support women’s rights in the DRC?
FFC supports a holistic approach to promoting women’s rights in the DRC. For example, we train women candidates but also fund organizations to sensitize the population to the idea of voting for women support advocacy for the placement of women in meaningful political positions.
We are unique and well positioned because we are Congolese women working for the promotion of Congolese women’s rights. Given that some of our staff faced these challenges, we have a deep understanding of the problems of women in the Congo.
As the conflict continued to grow in 2012, FFC convened women to advocate for the restoration of peace in eastern Congo. We welcomed women human rights activists from North and South Kivu in the east of the DRC to come and talk about the violence they have seen and experienced during these cycles of conflict.
The activists came to Kinshasa and met with the Congolese government, representatives of various embassies, and French President Francois Holland. It was important for these women – many of whom have survived sexual violence themselves or witnessed other rights violations – to speak about their experiences during the conflict in the DRC at the French summit. As a result, the French president supported our fight internationally, saying sexual violence should not continue to be used as a weapon of war.
FFC is able to go to places other organizations do not reach. We fund small organizations with grants ranging from $1000-5000. We also provide follow-up and trainings so these organizations may be able to fundraise from other sources of finance. We help them grow because we believe change will not come from one organization but from the effort of many working together towards a common goal.
To learn more, please visit FFC’s website at www.ffcrdc.org