It has been 12 years since the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) ratified the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.
However, the country is yet to develop a roadmap to implement the undertakings, leaving indigenous peoples vulnerable to violations of their rights. One group that feels more vulnerable is Pigmy women.
Although national and international civil society efforts to promote the rights of indigenous peoples have met some success in recent years, indigenous women still feel left behind across the African continent.
When indigenous Ogiek People’s won the landmark case against the government of Kenya in 2017, its victory was celebrated beyond the country. This implied that indigenous groups could win legal battles and lead better lives in their natural environment without fear. That is why following that victory, with support from the ILC, a lesson sharing meeting was organised in Botswana from 18-23, March 2019. A key lesson from this sharing was the importance of women in indigenous communities and their role in campaigns for rights.
That is why when the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) announced an alternative review on violations of women’s rights in DRC, the Programme Intégré pour le Développement du peuple Pygmée (PIDP) took the opportunity to develop a report. With support from ILC, PIDP worked with indigenous women groups across DRC and developed a report that presented the situation of indigenous Pygmy women in DRC.
The report was presented at the CEDAW Committee on 9th July 2019. Diel Mochire Mwenge, Provincial Director of PIDP and principal investigator for the alternative report, presented findings to an audience made of journalists, Civil Society groups and UN Agencies. From the report, these recommendations jump out:
- To support indigenous women and their Communities, it recommends the country to establish a specific national framework for coordinating the implementation of indigenous Pygmy people’s rights in DRC;
- To make the implementation process of indigenous peoples’ rights more inclusive to include provinces;
- Strengthen the participation of the press at the provincial and local level by training them on how to report about indigenous Pygmy people and women;
- Strengthen the working relations with states that have put measures in place to enable the Pygmy people to enjoy their rights;
Following the presentation, the CEDAW committee further noted that apart from the few milestones indicated above, the report filed by the DRC government on measures adopted to eliminate discrimination against women failed to highlight the plight of indigenous Pygmy women in DRC.
Chief among the weaknesses of the government report is the fact that there are no statistics on victims of violence, social state of discrimination, exclusion and historical marginalisation of the indigenous Pygmy women.