Women’s Engagement in the Political Process in the Democratic Republic of Congo

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a new study finds that in the media, only 22% of sources in news programs are women and that less than 15% of experts interviewed are women. 33% of women politicians were never contacted by media outlets for an interview.

The report is based on data collected in the first half of 2017 by the Congolese Union of Women Media Professionals (UCOFEM).

Surveyors were deployed in Kinshasa and eleven other large cities in the country with the objective of collecting data to get a clear understanding of institutional, familial and cultural factors that limit women’s engagement and participation in the democratic process, from voter registration to the place of women in the central government.

The survey also found that 47% of women believe that family pressures are the main limit to women’s engagement in politics and 39% of women do not feel that quotas are the best solution for improving representation.

UCOFEM (Union Congolaise des Femmes de Médias) presented the main findings of the study in July with Siri Walt, Swiss Ambassador in the DRC, and Richard Kimball, director of USAID/DRC’s Democracy, Human Rights and Governance office, in attendance.

Internews works for equality between men and women in DRC in and through the media, working closely with women media professional associations throughout the country. For the study, Internews provided technical assistance to UCOFEM through an agreement with Osservatorio di Pavia, an Italian renowned media research center to strengthen methodology, data collection tools and data analysis.

Aside from Kinshasa, the other cities surveyed included Lubumbashi, Kisangani, Mbuji Mayi, Bukavu, Goma, Kananga, Matadi, Kikwit, Mbandaka and Bandundu.

The methodology combined qualitative (interviews of key informant, focus groups) and quantitative tools. In addition, 24 case studies were produced by UCOFEM and experts appointed by the organization. For the survey, 1100 women in 12 target cities were interviewed on women engagement and solutions to enhance gender equality in institutions, political parties and civil society organizations.

The study also noted that the current provisions in the electoral law regarding the eligibility of candidates for national and local elections discriminate against women candidates and the quotas as defined by the Congolese Gender Parity have not been set as an obligation for political parties as sanctions are limited.

UCOFEM and other major women’s organizations are currently collaborating with the Ministry of Gender, Family Affairs and Childhood, the public media regulator and the electoral management body to issue an action plan to promote fair access for women candidates to media and to promote women’s engagement in the forthcoming electoral process.

The executive summary and the full report are available for download in French.