The description of Anne Marie Makombo’s blog reads: “Because your perspective counts. I created this blog to share with you what’s happening in the world, especially in my country the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).”
Makombo was the first of 30 women to post a blog as part of the NDI-supported Molongi Initiative, a blogging platform to help Congolese women involved in politics use technology to help them communicate, share information on issues they care about and raise their profile.
“Many men and women do not realize the importance of information communications technology (ICT), and I think it’s a bit sad,” said Makombo, a member of the research and advocacy group Femmes Politiques Extra-Parlementaires. “This initiative helped me see the advantages of maintaining a blog. I encourage every woman involved in the Molongi Initiative not to neglect their blogs and to fully engage themselves in it.”
In the DRC, women face significant obstacles to meaningful political participation. The traditional Congolese family structure discourages women from engaging in public life, forcing them to choose between professional ambitions and obligations at home. Even when women choose to engage politically, they are consistently relegated to supporting roles in party organizations.
An NDI assessment conducted in April found that “the general Congolese social environment is, to a great extent, unfriendly toward women’s political participation. Husbands often view wives with strong public personas as threatening or even humiliating for them.”
“Parties admitted that the functions of [women and youth] are often relegated to ‘cheerleading’ and/or party morale-boosting at formal and informal events,” the assessment found. “While parties include women and youth on their candidate lists, these are mostly token gestures as most who fall within one of these categories are positioned so far down on the lists that they have no chance of succeeding.”
The Molongi Initiative grew out of NDI’s Tomikotisa Program, which, among other things, works to promote women and young people in political parties. Through the program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, 30 women from political parties and civil society received training on blog creation, design and maintenance.
Thus far, seven women have published blogs and more are expected to go online shortly. The bloggers come from all over the country and are from both the ruling coalition and the opposition.
“I’m happy about this initiative because NDI chose to promote us and to give us the tools to bring us up to par [with men] in terms of technology,” said Therese Kongolo, one of the participants. “This initiative is unique because it stimulates us and encourages us to fully use ICT tools.”
"This project has exceeded our expectations, with women showing up at the NDI office on a regular basis to get help with their blogs,” said Eve Thompson, NDI’s country director in the DRC. “Suddenly they have a voice and a platform for conveying in more concrete terms what they as women politicians have to offer the public."
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Published on: Oct. 30, 2014.