Congolese Refugee Women Strengthen Community Networks

June 15, 2006

Leadership Workshop in TanzaniaIn February 2006, WLP's Zimbabwe partner the Women's Self Promotion Movement (WSPM) brought together 50 leading activists and democracy workers from the Nyarugusu Congolese Refugee Settlement in Kigoma, Tanzania for a Leading to Choices leadership workshop.

Participants were drawn from NGOs and smaller, community-based organizations active at the camp, including Association de Mamans Enseignantes, Solidarité Pour Le Développement, La Voix de Femmes de Fizi, Umoja wa Wanawake Wakristo wa Kigoma, and Fondation Muhamed Ali pour la Paix. The goal was to strengthen collaboration between organizations working to improve the lives of refugee women living in the camp.

Participants discussed the challenges they face in their day-to-day work in the camp and the issues they feel strongly about. A consensus emerged that forced early marriages were causing a great deal of suffering, often leading to violence against women and the breakdown of families.

Many of those living in the camp had personal experience of this issue. "My husband forced two of our daughters to marry without their consent. One of them recently divorced and the other has a violent and unhappy marriage because their relationship did not grow out of love and agreement. Parents must learn to give their children a chance to choose partners they love," said one participant.

As a result, participants decided to focus their energies on raising awareness of this issue with the goal of eliminating the practice of early marriage within the camp. They practiced negotiation, persuasion, mobilization, and advocacy skills to assist them in this project.

WSPM has made a long-term commitment to working with organizations in Nyarugusu Congolese Refugee Settlement and will support participants in their campaign against early marriage. WSPM provides small grants to two organizations in the camp for networking activities and frequently communicates with contacts and makes visits to the camp. WLP and WSPM will hold additional leadership workshops in Nyarugusu later this year.

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