September 24, 2010
3:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Berkley Center Third Floor Conference Room
On September 24, Justine Masika Bihamba, a Pax Christi International Peace Prize laureate, discussed her advocacy work on behalf of women affected by violence and rape as a weapon of war in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Donatella Rostagno, policy director of the European Network for Central Africa, joined Bihamba and served as translator.
During her talk at the Berkley Center, Bihamba criticized the culture of impunity that surrounds sexual assault and the dearth of accessible judiciaries to prosecute offenders. She called for increased pressure from the international community on the governments of the DRC, Rwanda, and Burundi, as well as the presence of an international tribunal in the DRC. While Congolese civil society, including coalitions such as her own, have become active in providing support for victims, many challenges remain, including the insecurity and constant threats under which these organizations have to work. She described her work training women in political participation and advocacy, from running in elections to staging sit-ins, and pointed out that Congolese women must become involved in the search for solutions to peace. She noted that it is challenging for women on their own to confront issues for change, but as a network, their voices can be heard.