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HEAL Africa provides holistic care for the people of Democratic Republic of Congo
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Gender and Justice supports empowerment

HEAL Africa’s Gender and Justice Program seeks to tackle the root causes of gender inequality in the Congolese society. Through decades of war and centuries of exploitation, traditional social and community structures have been broken down to the point where the majority of the population of Congo does not even know that they have rights, as shown in a study by HEAL Africa in Maniema province, and echoed by an informal survey of the women at HEAL Africa’s hospital in Goma. Not one could list one right they knew of.

The first premise of Gender and Justice is that the law must express the collective will of the community, and be reinforced by the judicial system to punish lawbreakers. The second premise is that the rights given to women in the 2006 Law on Sexual Violence and the 2005 Constitution must be actively appropriated by women within a community that supports their empowerment.

HEAL Africa approaches gender and justice issues through four facets:

First, HEAL Africa partners with the American Bar Association to reinforce the judicial system at the provincial, territorial, and community levels so that victims of sexual violence obtain justice, and a clear message is given to the community that sexual violence in any form will not be tolerated.

Second, HEAL Africa works with religious and community leaders for community mobilization. We believe that all human beings have the strength and capacity to transform their society. HEAL Africa equips religious and community leaders, through gender and justice training to be advocates for change by promoting gender equity.

Third, a new approach was designed by HEAL Africa that will specifically address masculinity issues. Men are the target group. Through this strategy HEAL Africa creates the opportunities for dialogue and reflection which may transform the dominant and oppressive masculinity into a collaborative masculinity. In Congo the experience of daily life has demonstrated that the way cultures, religions, and schools socialize boys to become men inherently lends itself to oppressive attitudes towards women.

Fourth, HEAL Africa works closely with primary and secondary schools in the North Kivu and Maniema provinces to conduct gender and justice activities. It is well known that the formal education delivered at school plays a major role in the process of growth of children. HEAL Africa trains teachers and creates youth clubs at schools that allow young boys and girls to discuss gender-related issues.

HEAL Africa approaches gender issues with utmost care with regards to inclusion and mutual understanding. Gains in gender equity and a functioning judicial system will only take place if the whole community is actively involved as a stakeholder.