In partnership with CAFCO (Framework for Congolese women), MONUC's Gender division organised a national consultation and evaluation workshop on the participation of women in DRC society in Kinshasa on 30 May 2007, with the aim of improving their representation in the forthcoming local elections to be held next year.
Head of MONUC's Gender Affairs division Amy Smythe explained that the Kinshasa workshop was a consolidation and validation of the recommendations formulated following 11 different workshops held in the provinces during the month of May.
"During these workshops, we worked with women candidates who both won and lost in the recent elections, as well as those in decision making areas, NGO's, churches and society in general. The aim of the consultations was to reach down to women at all levels of society within the DRC, and to identify potential female candidates and also effective strategies so that we can have more women in decision making positions," she said.
"There needs to be more women in DRC political life, and the electoral law as its stands is not favourable towards women, and the DRC Ministry of women and other womens organizations within the DRC are now advocating change," she added.
Among the participants at the Kinshasa workshop was the UN Deputy Special Representative in the DRC, Ross Mountain, and a representative from the DRC Ministry of Women, Marie-Claire Yandju, as well as diverse participants from the provincial workshops and representatives from UN agencies in the DRC.
During his speech, Mr. Mountain drew attention to the presence of women in decision making positions in the DRC which at present was effectively neglible, but was nonetheless a right that women must exercise.
"I would like to strongly encourage Congolese women to actively invest and support every lobbying effort in order for them to have a much larger political participation. The active presence of women in decision making positions is one of the principal conditions for real democracy and durable development," he said.
Mr. Mountain added that the results from the consultations will be used as a working base for agencies such as UNIFEM and UNDP, as well as those who work with the same objective of improving the level of Congolese women's participation in decision making processes.
Despite the fact that 51% of the DRC electorate are female, women only constitute an average of 8% of all members in DRC political life, and the series of workshops organised by MONUC's Gender division aims to address this imbalance.