DR Congo

UN Volunteer launches first UN mission gender web site

KINSHASA, 7 March 2003 - Coinciding with International Women's Day, the Gender Office of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) will tomorrow launch the first UN mission web site dedicated to gender issues.
United Nations Volunteer Nesrin Hannoun, a native of Jordan working as an information officer with MONUC's Gender Office, developed the content of the web site to highlight and promote the work of the Office and provide information on gender and peacekeeping issues. She hopes the site will also inform people on the issues and challenges facing women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

"What we're trying to do is draw attention on the active role women of DRC are playing as active agents for peace and cases of abuse like mass rape that went on and continues to go on," she said. "The needs of women need to be brought to the forefront and we're trying to do this by keeping people informed."

The web site - in English and French - will target civil society, academic institutions, national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), other UN agencies and MONUC.

Providing easy access to information is an important factor in increasing the role of women in DRC, Ms. Hannoun said. The conflict situation in the country, she noted, has directly affected women and children as they were specifically targeted during the conflict. For example, almost 75 per cent of the country's refugees and internally displaced people are women and children. By providing information on gender issues she believes more women will be educated on their rights and know the process to defend them.

"I spent four years volunteering in women's rights in Jordan and three years working with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), so I know the importance of providing women with information on their rights...it's one of the most important empowerment tools," she said.

The Gender Office was created in March 2002 to increase gender awareness and at the same time women's participation in politics at the national level and in the peace process supported by MONUC. Ms. Hannoun said the fact that the mission has a fully staffed Gender Office demonstrates the importance of incorporating a gender perspective into peacekeeping operations and also when implementing peace agreements.

She and four additional staff members work with more than 30 civil society organizations in the country to disperse gender related information to other organizations and civil society groups. Ms. Hannoun hopes the web site will become an important networking tool to make it possible for people inside and outside of DRC to receive information on women's organizations within the country and learn more about ongoing work to curb violence against women and stem the spread of HIV/AIDS.

"We take every opportunity to highlight the issues facing women," said the UN Volunteer. "Without advocacy nothing will be done."

Visit the Gender Office web site at: http://www.monuc.org/gender

The United Nations Volunteers programme (UNV) is the volunteer arm of the UN system supporting peace, relief and development initiatives in nearly 150 countries. Created by the UN General Assembly in 1970 and administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNV works through UNDP country offices to mobilize volunteers--two thirds of them from developing countries--and promote the ideals of volunteerism around the world.

For more information about this news release, contact:
Paulin Djomo, UNV Programme Manager, tel: (243) 998 5360; email: djomo@un.org