Dem. Rep. of Congo, Africa

DRC08 - ACLUP Tuungane Project : Partnership Reports

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Report Date: March 13, 2023

Advocating and Psychological Assistance Program Phase 1 Report 


We thank the Almighty Lord God for granting us this opportunity to put together this report. In September of last year, ACLUP had a fund as part of its Beneficiaries' Access to Justice program. This program was born from the multiple complaints of our beneficiaries of the TUUNGANE program which today has more than 3,100 women in 800 households. These women have revealed that during their daily activities, they face soldiers and police officers who steal their property and sometimes beat them up. 

We had identified over ten women whose goods (amaranths, avocado, tomato, fish, etc.) are snatched by the police and these snatched products are stolen by the same police who are supposed to protect them. Many of these women come out with injuries caused by police blunders in wanting to save their products.

The survival of many families in the DRC is on the backs of these women who take risks and brave fear just to provide their children with food. Paulin had caught a policeman who had stolen the goods of a lady arguing as a reason that this lady sold her products in a pirate market, i.e., in the street. Paulin has been very angry at this behaviour, and has taken the initiative of facing justice at the risk of his life. He hired, with his own funds, a lawyer after a complaint against the policeman. At the end of the case, fortunately the woman has been compensated. The policeman paid $50/month for 6 months to restore including damages; the property of the lady.

This showed that it was possible to lead a campaign against those who steal, torture and harm the various beneficiaries of whom Bright Hope World supports with loans. We must fight this scourge energetically so that these women can regain their freedom. In addition, apart from these police hassles, there are also taxes that these women face every day. The Congolese state being passive, there are state agents who come to bother these women by bringing receipts, taxes and informal taxes. Another element that makes us angry is the fact that these women are also often raped by their own husbands. In Bukavu, lately there has been an exaggerated growth in the consumption of strong alcoholic beverages. After they are drunk; some men come home and ruthlessly kidnap these women. More than five women have already reported being beaten by their husbands and then these husbands rob them of all the capital that was helping the family. One of them reported that her own son went to drink alcohol and once drunk, he came back with a knife to want to kill his mother if she did not give him this money. The mother out of fear gave her son all her money.

So, in the discussion with BHW's partnership facilitator (Kevin Honore) in Rwanda last year; Paulin proposed that we could hire key people, professionals capable of closely following files related to the law. A lawyer can be hired to advocate with the authorities so that the police are informed that all acts against these women are punishable. Apart from that, the lawyer will collect all the complaints of these women and bring them before the competent courts.

Besides that, to help these women come back from their trauma, they need a psychological assistant capable of monitoring these women by giving them advice (counselling) for socio-psychological reintegration.

Recent Events

Advocating (Advocation, Awareness and Training)

meeting with the womenFor the women beneficiaries of the project to understand, it took a necessary sensitization which took a whole week in the various markets and places of gathering of women, VSLAs, and in certain churches. The message concerned the importance of informing the public, especially women who practice trading in the various public places of the city of Bukavu, the role of the rules and regulations of the governments, and the different taxes nomenclature.

After that, a training course on the law and obligation of trade in the Province of South Kivu followed. Two separate trainings had been programmed: firstly, Trade Rights and Obligations and secondly, Advocacy. Advocacy will be part of phase 2 of this training to enable beneficiaries to take charge of themselves in the future. ACLUP will not stay with them forever, so they will have to learn the meeting with the womentechnics allowing them to confront the politico-military or police authorities by taking on the various pleas themselves if any problem occurs. During the trainings, the lawyer in charge of this emphasized the importance of respect of the rules and regulations in marketing in this Province especially Bukavu Mayor town.

Women were warned against ignorance of the fundamental basis that they have to have respect when doing their activities. It is known that each market must be under a management of the commune or the mayor. The nomenclature of taxes to be paid and their nature was explained to trainees. After training, people knew about the real persons to whom they may pay taxes and other states requirements.

From the two pictures above, we can see, how the level of sensitization was. We went in different markets to explain the interest of staying in the market, the danger of doing business in the pirate market. 

filing complaintsIn this picture, we can see the way we used to receive their complaints. The lawyer is there to register with the forms prepared for this. After registering forms, the lawyer studies the complaints by judging them if they need to be treated by the court or to be settled amicably. In our philosophy, we don’t want to start directly with the court. Once our beneficiaries brought their complaints, we advise them to keep in mind that the pardon is the first thing as Christian. That’s why we communicate directly with the state agent (local leader, soldier, police, etc). To date we have had 47 complaints registered: 12 were treated amicably; 30 are now in process; and 5 in justice.

Of these 47 complaints, 12 were settled out of court because the interventions were direct. For these 12 cited we have witnessed situations where the police went to the market to ask for their ratio and took away the goods of women who were reluctant to give. These women directly appealed to our lawyer who intervened directly, and things were easily settled amicably without giving anything to the policeman.

meeting with authoritiesFinally, to bring local authorities, the police and small women traders closer, we organized sessions with role models who are considered leaders of other women. During our meetings, it was a question of discussing with the police, administrative and religious authorities. This meeting was intended to break the fear or mistrust that is observed between the Congolese people and the authorities. During this interview, Paulin focused a short sequence on the consequences of corruption and its effects on society and the Christian family. Participants were asked to each talk about the consequences of corruption and its danger on our society and especially the change of mentality as an element of success. Brochures were distributed to participants to help them effectively convey these materials to others. 

Advocating in the below state public services were organized:
- Provincial Police Inspector for presenting to him different complaints against policemen under his responsibility;

- The Division Director in charge of Commerce and Abroad Affairs where we advocated about facilitating women to cross the border with foods from Rwanda to Bukavu without any harassment as observed by the agents of this division committed at the border. Congolese law allows food and small business to cross in without any payment. Unfortunately, the state public agents harass these people. With this division, we proposed a booklet (law and regulations of the commerce in DRC) that needs to be printed and distributed to our beneficiaries in the Swahili language.

- The specialized services in charge of certifying meat and fish to be sold in the area. We got enough complaints from our beneficiaries whose goods are stolen by the agents of this specialized service. It has been asked for ACLUP to prepare a training module for the change of behaviour for 103 agents of this public service.

- The Mayor of the Bukavu Town who was asked to help the small women businesses have suitable places which respect the standard of being a market. Women keep getting in trouble with police because they don’t respect the rules. With the mayor we decided to organize trainings for policemen and representatives of these women. It was decided to gather these women in small groups as associations and instructions be given throughout the different leaders in the groups.

- Church leaders were contacted, and we asked them to sensitize their church members involved in small business to respect the law and regulations of the formal commerce in the Province. We emphasized about the war we started against corruption in the country. Corruption is like a killing disease which is able to attack and consume all the community.


exceptional testimoneyPsychological Assistance (Counselling)

As stated previously, the program responded to various concerns raised by our beneficiaries. Now, ACLUP has hired a person who works four hours a week and their role has had an impact. We have exceptional testimonials from women who tell us about the different situations that keep stressing them out. Mrs Genetrude Cagane (in photo) and Mrs Nsmire shared their joy with us from the psycho-social advice received from ACLUP.

To assist the women traders our Psychological Advisor, Mrs Elisabeth, had proposed sessions to help them recover from their trauma, during which women exchange testimonies and experiences on difficult or fulfilled lives. It is within this framework that ACLUP has organized various sessions; some in the field and others in quiet, retreat-like places.

The day we met with these women it was in occasion of a mediation between them and the mediatingchief responsible for their local market. I was informed that the leader asked each woman to pay $50 to keep their places in the market. He threatened to hunt those who did not want to pay this money.

After talking to some of the women, the psychological adviser informed that some cases need to be followed by the lawyer. Now, the lawyer and the psychological adviser are working together to identify cases that need to be shifted from lawyer to the psychological adviser and vice versa. Some cases caught our attention.

Everyday pressure due to the police 
With the situation of our country, police are not there for civilian protection. It is a funny event when the protection becomes the source of trauma. With sessions done with over 22 women, they mentioned that this situation causes some of them to get injured or cause accidents because of police harassment. Most of the women, after a hot day being chased the whole day by police, they then become more aggressive with their families.

Lack of legal support 
17 of these women reported having been illegally arrested by the police without any reason. The cause was that they refused to pay a bribe. This is how day by day they developed a psychological trauma that made some of them become problematic and conflictual. This way of life unbalances families and as a consequence, children and husbands are traumatized. Thanks to God, their cases are taken in charge by ACLUP nowadays.

The authorities ask us for bribes frequently
The small business is seen by police like everyday bread for them. In several situations, women are arrested and harassed by different state agents (police, taxes preceptors, deans of markets, and different agents in the area). This causes misunderstanding with these parties and women in a position of vulnerability, never accept. For example, Mrs Cibalama had been beaten and interned in the hospital for 3 days because she refused to give a bribe and this led to a fight between business women and these agents. Bribes become a traumatic tool for women who for a long time see their capitals collapsing down.

Difficult cohabitation with husband
Some of our beneficiaries say they have husbands who sexually harass them in their households. There are some men in this country who do not recognize the value of women. A woman was locked up for two days in her room by her husband and this husband deprived her of food. After this dirty theatre, the husband stole all the capital money from his wife. This woman was left with very acute psychological trauma since her capital was the only means that helped her to live with her children. Many Congolese men do not have jobs. The financial burdens fall on the women who manage as best they can.

Sexual abuse 
Different cases of sexual abuse are claimed by women in different area of this Province. Specifically, our lawyer is pursuing a case in court regarding a woman sexually abused by the manager of the market. There are other isolated cases that women don’t reveal but they were able to expose them to the psychological adviser.



ACLUP is very satisfied with the support on advocacy and psychological follow-up of our beneficiaries. From now on, the beneficiaries are in the process of recovering a form of stability since people are now talking about their situations. Thus, advocacy has been carried out at different levels and the follow-up of files is in progress. This program should remain permanent as long as we live in a country where law and human rights are very weak. The justice department and police officers already know that we are there and that our fight is to equip small traders so that they know the limits of their rights and their duty.