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Dimitra Workshops

Strengthening the information, communication and gender capacities of farmers' organisations and community radio stations in Katanga province

Workshop in Lubumbashi, Katanga (DRC) from 4 to 8 June 2007

This workshop was organised by the Réseau Femme et Développement du Katanga (REFED-Katanga) and Dimitra, with the involvement of a wide range of partners such as CONAFED, the King Baudouin Foundation, the Belgian Technical Cooperation (BTC), the Canadian International Development Agency, the Health Unit of the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ-Santé), UNDP and UNFPA.

© Dimitra

Theworkshop brought together some hundred men and women, representatives of grassroots organisations and community radio stations, from across the province of Katanga. Katanga is huge, and they had to use every conceivable means of transport to reach Lubumbashi: aeroplane, train, motorcycle and bicycle. Some of participants travelled for up to 10 days to attend the workshop! A crèche was set up for female participants with young children to allow them to take a full part in the discussions.

The workshop's objective was to boost local residents' information, communication and gender capacities. Four main topics formed the basis for the exchanges of experiences and testimonies. Gender was an overarching theme that was addressed in all the topics:

  1. Access to land and the structuring of farmers' organisations in the light of mining development and its impact on society and food security; 
  2. Widespread application and implementation of the law against sexual violence; 
  3. Rural communities' involvement in the fight against HIV/AIDS; 
  4. Gender and communication for development and improved access to information and communication for rural populations.

The workshop was officially opened by Minister for Rural Development Charles Mwambo Nsimba, in the presence of FAO representative Mr Gana Diagne. The minister stressed his interest in training rural women and reiterated the crucial role of communication in development and democracy building. In addition, he encouraged the participants to create synergies by organising themselves, using in particular the support of the media and rural community radio stations. He also expressed the hope that other workshops of this type would be held in rural communities.

The impact of mining on food security

Katanga is a province that has great mineral wealth. However, mining, which represented over 80% of the national budget before 1990, has not led to sustainable socioeconomic development of the region. What is happening is what is commonly called the "mineralisation of the villages", i.e. the abandonment of agricultural activities for mining - either due to people moving from one sector to the other or because they sold their land (willingly or under duress) to mining companies, leading to a crisis in food supplies and a rise in the prices of products which are becoming less and less freely available on the markets. In patriarchal societies, women, who do not have direct access to land, are particularly badly affected by a situation of this type. Losing direct access to the production of food resources, they and many children are forced to work in artisanal mining, posing a danger for their health and safety.

© Dimitra

Widespread dissemination and repackaging of the law against sexual violence and involvement of rural communities in the fight against HIV/AIDS

In the DRC, the population has suffered hugely from the acts of violence that were committed during the war and which are still going on to this day. Sexual violence was used to terrorise the population and the climate of impunity, thriving due to the gaps in the judicial system, has contributed to making these practices commonplace (see article on p. x). Widespread dissemination and repackaging of the law against sexual violence is eagerly awaited by rural populations. UNFPA gave the participants to the workshop image boxes and also presented the results of the Joint Initiative to Combat Sexual Violence, which involves coordinated aid to offer general support to victims (legal, economic and psychosocial assistance).

The communities play a fundamental role in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and BTC and GTZ contributed their expertise and experience in this field. BTC encourages people to talk about the disease, enabling the communities to play an active role in identifying and implementing solutions; GTZ-Santé familiarises the population with the means of infection and the importance of voluntary screening. The disease also has a devastating impact on the lives of young people, who are orphaned without any agricultural knowledge to ensure their survival. In some countries, FAO's Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools (JFFLS) provide a framework to train them in vital agricultural practices (see article on p. x). FAO also presented its projects on urban and peri-urban agriculture and on managing emergencies in the province. These explanations were much appreciated by the participants.

Gender and communication for development

As both men and women are players in community development, they must have equal access to information and to communication and information tools. All members of society must be able to make their voice heard and outline their specific needs. However, it is clear that women in particular are kept out of decision-making and face numerous obstacles when it comes to having their views taken into account.

Although it is mentioned in the new Congolese Constitution, there are numerous obstacles (most of them associated with customary practices) to the principle of gender equality. The participants' testimonies bore witness to the huge gulf between theory and practice.

Improved access to information and communication - the role of community radio stations

Community radio can help to re-establish the balance that is crucial to the development of a rural community as a whole. However, rural women explain that the radio in the house often belongs to the man and their workload means they don't have much time to listen to programmes. Conversely, community radio stations only rarely talk about issues specific to women. Support for community radio listening clubs is one way of ensuring the participation of all.

The destruction or disrepair of the DRC's transport network has led to rural areas being extremely isolated. In the field of information and communication, radio remains virtually the only medium to which people have access. Its main advantages are that it uses the local languages and focuses on the interests and needs of the community. But radio stations also have to cope with problems preventing them from fully performing their role: lack of equipment, financial difficulties, the resistance of the authorities and the political context, and so on. This means that networking of radio stations would be a good way of sharing resources that they wouldn't be able to accumulate by themselves.

Strategies and recommendations

After a day of group activities, the participants drew up strategies and recommendations:

  • Access to training and information: widespread dissemination and repackaging of the legislation (mining laws, laws on sexual violence, etc.), provide information on individuals' rights, raise awareness on gender issues, provide information on HIV/AIDS, establish a national policy of access to information and communication in rural areas, grant community radio stations exemption from administrative taxes, etc.
  • Build the capacity of farmers' organisations and the Congolese judicial system. Local languages need to be used for communication, and rural women must be trained and a link made with female literacy.
  • Lobby the government to apply the legislation; or, at a local level, in the fight against certain habits and customs, to develop civil society by creating farmers' platforms supported by NGOs.
  • Involve local communities: boost dialogue, create synergies, organise exchange visits and the sharing of experiences. 
  • Knowledge transfer: pass on the findings of the workshop to communities at the local level and communicate the recommendations widely using different media (a film, a brochure, radio programmes, a bulletin, playlets, etc.).

The full recommendations and a link to all the workshop presentations, please click here (in French only)

For further information, please contact Dimitra or REFED-Katanga