DR Congo: performing for change 1 Favorite 



Dec 11 2016

Driving along an ordinary dirt road, it's hard to miss the Goma Cultural Centre with its bright blue gate, emblazoned with the Congolese flag. "As you can see, we are proud to be Congolese around here," said Belamy Paluku, a volunteer manager at the youth centre.

Given the tense political climate, activism is a dangerous business in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). President Joseph Kabila's second five-year term will expire in December and cannot be extended, according to the country's constitution. The electoral commission recently announced that it plans to push back elections to 2018.

An artistic armistice

At the Goma Cultural Centre, artists volunteer to mentor young performers in developing their performance skills. Paluku and JC Wenga, another manager at the organization, both see art as a solution to decades of conflict in the region. "I really believe that change starts with me. So this initiative had to come from us," 27-year-old Wenga told DW.

Sanaa Weekend – sanaa being the Swahili word for art – started in 2012. It is an opportunity for the young artists to give something back to their community. Every Saturday, 4,000 people crowd onto the grounds to watch free live performances which are organized entirely by volunteers.

Pushing for gender equality

A stone's throw from the Rwandan border, volunteer Christiane Binja explains the murals decorating the wall of the Yolé Africa youth center. "This portrait represents a strong African woman," said the 29-year-old, smiling. "I hope this is how others see me."

As young activists begin to pour onto the premises, Binja welcomes participants to the second annual Goma Web Activism Summit. Bloggers, journalists, and advocates from across eastern DRC are attending the event to learn how to harness technology to increase the impact of their activism. "Technology is a way to show what we're living [in North Kivu]," said Binja, who organized the event.

Gender equality is one of the causes Binja is most passionate about. Traditionally, women who venture outside the home have fewer opportunities than men. Since the Second Congo War (1998-2003), the DRC has been dubbed 'the worst place on earth to be a woman' by the international press.

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