I have fought for freedom since I was young, because I was raised in a very violent society. I faced violence in all areas – social, economic, gender. I was raised in that environment, and my struggle for freedom started at a young age from my home. When I talk about gender violence, I am talking about something which is inside the family. I always say: “African sexism takes its strength from African culture.” Those traditional sexist laws are inside the family. You can see the discrimination against women inside your home.
The Congolese woman still does not stand in front of her family. She does not yet shout, or stand up and speak about her rights. She is still in that situation. But I always take my hat off to the Brazilian woman. I see how much they fight here. In the face of all the discrimination and suffering that they still face, they are there, fighting. Even the black women here, who suffer a lot. Brazilian women's activism for gender equality and rights is very advanced.
There is almost nothing comparable for the women in Congo. There are many the factors that cause this. First, there is a barrier for women in our culture that was built a long time ago. This barrier is reproduced inside our houses – it is a part of the daily life of Congolese families. It is true that we have laws that protect women in Congo, but the inequality is still happening inside the house.
How can we talk about the independence of Congolese woman when the ideal for women in society is to be married? The Congolese woman needs to start her fight by breaking with this idea. I am not saying here that Congolese culture is bad. On the contrary, I am very proud of my culture. I respect my habits and customs a lot. But when I say I have to break some of the customs, the culture regarding gender, it is to have equality. I say this regarding customs that were established by our ancestors and affect women directly. These laws, which are customs, were constituted by the particular environment of our ancestors, and men created these customs to the extent that they needed them.
But I think that today the world has evolved. There are many things that existed and that no longer exist. For example, in the past we lived on hunting and fishing, but not today. Today there are offices and people go to school. Technology and globalisation have made many things change. Things have to change for women too.
We need to get out of those old laws and customs that were created to govern an ancient (male) society. As it was in the past, women’s main role is getting married, having children and taking care of the home. To have freedom, we need to change that.
H. M., Five years in Brazil
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