Common Cause UK: Congolese women leading change for peace and justice

By Sam and ChristinaManch

Mama Nzita is a founding member of Common Cause UK. In an interview with Black Feminists Manchester, she shares her thoughts about the ongoing campaign to raise awareness and end violence against Congolese women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She tells us more about the Common Cause Manchester group that formed in December 2012 and their upcoming peace vigil.

Int: Can you tell us about Common Cause UK?

MN: “Common Cause UK are a platform for Congolese women based in the UK ,we empower ladies, teach them to know about their rights because ladies are not aware of their rights, they are suffering and facing many problems in this country, so that’s why Common Cause was set up to help ladies in our community.”

Is it specifically for Congolese women?

“At the beginning yes it was for Congolese women, but we have grown now and can help other women, but the focus is for Congolese women.”

Tell us more about your own personal involvement with Common Cause UK?

“I am one of the founders of Common Cause, when we came in this country we faced many problems and back home many ladies are facing many problems; violence against women, rape, that’s why we said together, ‘let’s do something for our community’, because it’s becoming worse. We’ve got the skills and we asked ourselves, ‘can we help people and do something for the community?’ So people can come and learn about what they can do to help each other. That’s why I became part of Common Cause, it was set up by a few ladies who were committed in the community.”

What are your main objectives for Common Cause UK?

“Empowering ladies, knowing your rights, building a stronger community and acting when something is happening.”

Historically there have been different political leaders in Congo for the past 10-20 years, what would you say has been the biggest impact on Congolese women under these different political regimes?

“I was grown up under Mobutu government, ladies were respected in that time, when Kabila (senior) came into power, he came with Rwandan soldiers. When their mission was over, they were asked to go back to Rwanda, but they didn’t want to and from there became a conflict between Rwanda and the Congo, this was around 1998. And behind the war there are international people pushing Rwanda telling them to do whatever they want to do. They never stop them, even the military don’t talk about it because they know what they are doing.
Now Congolese ladies are being raped, killed and even buried alive. 40 ladies were buried alive. Ladies have been tortured, raped, I don’t know how to say, they have seen different kinds of violence, ALL the kinds of violence and now they have to escape. If you have money or you know someone, you have a chance to escape, but they are dying. There is HIV, children -they can rape even a 4 month old baby, never seen in the world, but in the Congo this is happening every single day, that is the impact.”

We don’t hear much about the Congo in the media, occasionally celebrities such as Ben Affleck and Angelina Jolie will go out to the Congo and it will be reported, but it doesn’t seem to have as much coverage as countries such Sudan, Somalia and the Arab Spring for example. Can you give us a reason as to why that is?

“Because international people know that if they talk about it, people are going to say it’s not good and it’s not fair, it’s going to be a shame for them. They know what’s happening because they have got their own businesses there. For example the UK, they have businesses out in Eastern Congo, they have agents working there taking the resources, the minerals and they bring them here (UK). They can’t talk about these things because their business is based there. It is for their own good because when Congolese women are suffering its better for them to live, you know, they are living because we have to suffer for them to have a good life here. That is the only one reason they cannot talk about it. It’s for all Congolese women and other communities to help Congolese women and do this work, otherwise they are going to finish all the ladies there, they are going to disappear one day. Everything is about money they don’t care about human beings.”

Can you tell us about the upcoming Common Cause events in Manchester?

“We are going to have a special Congolese women’s day, we are going to talk about what women are supposed to do and what is going on in our country. Even in the UK, ladies are also having problems, we will talk about what kind of help they can get from Common Cause, what they can do, where to go. There is going to be a big meeting as well, ladies are going to come from Belgium, London, different areas and countries to be together, there will also be celebrations.

The vigil is going to happen in Piccadilly Gardens from 12.30pm til 2pm, we are going to raise awareness of violence against Congolese women, because I think people are not aware of what is going on in the Congo, because the media does not want to talk about it. That’s why we will campaign, to demonstrate about the massive violence that is going on in the Congo, how they are raping and killing people , how they don’t even consider them human beings, we don’t have the right to live, that’s why we are going to be there in the cold, to show people.

We need a solution and we need these things to be stopped, it has been happening for too long, the media have to talk about it, because this shame is not good, because people are dying there. Imagine if in the UK, if they rape a lady, they show it on the TV and that person has to be reported to court. In Congo it’s happening every single minute, every single second, how many people are raped a day? Here, if you rape an underage (person) you are going to be called a pedophile but there, there is no pedophile, they can do whatever they want, that is why we want justice to be done, the big reason why we are doing what we are doing is because we want justice to be done.”

Pregnant congolese woman

The Common Cause peace vigil will take place from 12.30pm to 2pm Saturday 30th March 2013 in Piccadilly Gardens Manchester. All welcome.

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About Black Feminists Manchester

This is a group for women who are ‘black’ in the political sense. I.e: women who self- identify, originate or have ancestry from global majority populations (i.e. Africa, Asia, Middle East and Latin America) multi heritage and indigenous backgrounds.
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