GNWP Reports from Kigali, Rwanda: Exchange of ideas, sisterhood and peer mentoring: A reflection on the Interprovincial Conference on the Economic Empowerment of Young Women in North and South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo
27 September 2023 by Simone Mbodé Diouf
From 7 to 8 August 2023, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), in partnership with the Synergie des Femmes pour les Victimes de Violences Sexuelles (SFVS) and Youth for Peace DRC, and with the support of United Women in Faith, invited members of the Young Women Leaders for Peace (YWL) network to Kigali, Rwanda. The YWL came from North and South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to attend an interprovincial conference on the economic empowerment of young women in the eastern part of the country. The conference advanced ongoing collaborative efforts between GNWP and the YWL networks over several years to promote women’s economic empowerment, economic justice, and access to and control of resources. The primary goal of the meeting was to foster interprovincial solidarity between the two YWL chapters, encourage collaboration and peer mentoring, and exchange ideas and best practices. The conference was also an opportunity for the YWL members to meet in person for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic to strengthen joint advocacy promoting young women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship.
On the first day, GNWP Program Director Katrina Leclerc spoke about the original purpose and structure of the YWL network, its evolution in recent years, the different chapters around the world and activities in other countries.
This reminder helped participants understand that the foundational belief of the YWL initiative is that when young women’s leadership and peacebuilding potential is harnessed, they are a positive force for transforming communities and society. It is under this premise that the YWL networks aim to recognize and value the leadership of young women and gender equality allies, as well as help them acquire the skills to advance the synergistic implementation of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) resolutions.
The YWL also reflected on and shared their vision of economic empowerment. They defined it as the process by which individuals, particularly young women, develop the skills, resources and access to opportunities necessary to make independent fiscal decisions, improve their financial well-being and increase their participation in the economy. A more in-depth discussion on young women’s role in the North and South Kivu economies, and the DRC economy more generally, led participants to conclude that women’s impacts are wide-ranging and positive. Notably, women have meaningful economic contributions through their participation in business and entrepreneurship, agriculture and even industry — as market traders, domestic workers and through the unpaid care work they provide.
Participants identified concrete strategies and actions to improve the socioeconomic situation of young women and ensure their financial and economic independence in both. The YWL concluded that training young women in literacy is crucial to advancing their meaningful participation and integration in economic life. Young women have the potential to contribute to the acceleration of economic growth in their regions and countries. However, they need access to resources and greater financial autonomy to do so.
The members of the YWL networks committed to continue the discussions begun in Kigali and maintain their efforts as community leaders and peacebuilders.