Courage in Congo
“We wrote ‘mwanamke shujaa’ meaning ‘women leaders’ on our mural painting. There are girls that discredit themselves, thinking that they can’t paint or draw. But if they pass by this painting, even though they may neglect their own talents now they can start to think differently and they can think that if they wanted, they could do this too.”
-Courage in Congo Project Participant, Post-Project Evaluation
November 2015 – April 2016
Goma, DR Congo
35 teen girl participants
Shifted gender perceptions
Courage in Congo shifted perceptions of how women and girls are seen in society through a public arts project with out-of-school adolescent girls in Goma, in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Through the psychosocial art-based program, 35 adolescent girls, aged 15-19, engaged in therapeutic arts activities, art activities that built artistic skills, and activities that built social, cognitive, and human and health assets.
In partnership with a local organization, the Center to Support Marginalized and Exploited Youth (CAMME) and with logistical support from the International Rescue Committee (IRC), this project worked with community leaders and adolescent girls who were out-of school and those who were at a great risk of – or who were survivors of – sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
The program activities were designed to shield participants against the risks associated with SGBV and expand their opportunities. Program design including curriculum activities and recruitment tools were developed by Colors of Connection with resources from local partners and the Population Council.
Prior to the start of the project, Colors of Connection observed that the vast majority of imagery of women in Goma casts women and girls as victims, powerless and without agency to address the issues that affect them. This affirmed the validity of our efforts to work with a community-formulated approach and to directly engage women and girls in the creation and public dissemination of SGBV prevention imagery.
Guided by discussions with the Community Arts Council (CAC) composed of community leaders, the project took a fresh approach to sexual violence prevention by promoting positive qualities of women and girls. The images portrayed in the two murals were solution-driven, and showed the capacity of women and girls. The themes for the murals were “Women in the Workforce” and “the Development and Promotion of Women Leadership.” The program culminated in the participants’ design and painting of the murals in two neighborhoods in Goma, and an unveiling ceremony in which 35 participants received certificates of completion.
Several post-project initiatives led to sustainability of the project, including a volunteer-run arts class, psychosocial support, and scholarships for participants to go back to school.
Courage in Congo provided a rare opportunity for out-of-school teenage girls and community leaders to work together to address the issue of girls’ and women’s rights, SGBV prevention, and support for survivors. The project brought new strength and perspective into this community in Goma, and planted seeds for a movement of strong courageous women.
Photography by Pamela Tulizo Kamale
Click on a photo to begin a slideshow
“Goma is a population that is still traumatized with everything that has happened with war over and over again, rape, violence, the way that people have been killed – I think that the population is traumatized. But, art – it can heal. It gives joy, actually. When you see a drawing or a positive image, we become happy. I think this can be a way to de-traumatize.”
-Community Arts Council member, Post-Project Evaluation
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