In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Women for Women International (WfWI) partnered with Innovation and Training for Development and Peace (IFDP) to implement Rising Up! Promoting Congolese Women’s Land Access and Preventing Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Eastern DRC. This project promoted women’s rights and improved women’s access to land and GBV referral systems.
Summary of impact
People trained on GBV prevention
Of participants are more aware of GBV through the project
In the DRC, women’s access to land and property is central to women’s empowerment, as land is an important household asset that supports food production and income generation. Secure land tenure enables greater levels of overall economic well-being, but in the Eastern DRC, the land tenure system is opaque and complex, and it is further complicated by conflict and displacement. Though the state legally owns all land and formal legislation governs land use, a significant percentage remains subject to customary law. Both customary and formal law discriminates against women, and this combined with harmful gender norms and decades of insecurity and conflict in the region place women at high risk of experiencing emotional, economic, physical, and sexual GBV.
WfWI and IFDP adapted WfWI’s proven women’s empowerment and GBV prevention approaches, the Male Engagement Program and Change Agent program, and applied them to a new sector—land rights.
The project team completed a rapid gender analysis to better understand the linkages between GBV, land tenure security, and community power structures, and to inform program design. WfWI and IFDP trained male community leaders, community Land Reflection Groups, and women Change Agents on land rights and how to identify and address GBV. The project worked with these key stakeholders to integrate GBV prevention and response into IFDP’s existing Customary Decentralized Land Management Resource Model, which was implemented to safely strengthen land tenure security for men and women in the community. The training and sensitization efforts built Change Agents’ capacity to educate women on their land rights and support them to claim and receive customary land titles using the model. Male leaders, including village chiefs, began to examine and shift norms and customs that prevented women from accessing land, used gender-sensitive approaches to resolve land disputes, and when necessary, referred GBV survivors to appropriate support services. Since village chiefs are highly respected and influential members of the community, placing them at the forefront of changes in gender norms and land management facilitated broader community adoption.
During implementation, WfWI and IFDP discovered that first-born sons were challenging their mother’s newly acquired land rights. The partners quickly adapted to create a youth engagement program that sensitized boys between the ages of 18 and 30 on land inheritance laws, land conflict management, and the Decentralized Land Management Resource Model.
From July 2020 to March 2022, WfWI and IFDP successfully increased understanding of land rights and women’s access to land among men and women in the Nyangenzi community in South Kivu, leading to 133 women securing a total of 145 customary land titles. An additional 262 women are currently in the process of claiming their customary titles. By the end of the project, women from eight target villages understood their land rights and had the tools to engage with local stakeholders to obtain land titles.
WfWI and IFDP increased 1,418 women’s knowledge of land rights and GBV through training efforts, well beyond the target. The project also ensured that Land Reflection Groups have the knowledge and tools to support women as they exercise their land rights and prevent GBV and land tenure conflict. At the end of the project, about 85 percent of members of Land Reflection Groups demonstrated improved knowledge of women’s land rights and what constitutes GBV and had more favorable attitudes toward women’s access to land rights. In addition, none of the women who received customary land titles experienced GBV as part of the process.
As the project team carried out community sensitization activities and the Men’s Engagement Program to raise awareness about topics such as preventing GBV, positive masculinity, and women’s land rights, the number of reported GBV cases declined among project participants. Men who participated in the training exhibited shifts in behavior and attitudes toward women and land rights, including male leaders who serve as role models to other community members. One village chief who was initially opposed to registering land in a woman’s name changed his perspective after attending the training, gave land to his wife, and encouraged other men in his village to do the same. By the end of the project, all male community leaders that participated in the project provided land to their wives.