Women still paying the price
After fleeing her African home accused of being an enemy of the state for standing up for women’s rights, Lulu Mitshabu came to Australia with her husband and two children seeking a better life.
In the intervening 21 years, women in her homeland of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and in many developing countries on the continent have continued to fight for basic human rights.
In 2011, the DRC was named the worst country to live in as a woman.
Gender inequity, poverty, weak economic capacity, and sexual and gender-based violence including genital mutilation are some of the issues women face.
According to the World Health Organization, one in three women in Africa will experience some form of violence in their lifetime, double the rate of Australia women.
As a mother of six girls, Lulu says this number is frightening, but no surprise. She has seen firsthand the mistreatment and injustices women face in Africa.
“Society doesn’t favour women in Africa and there are no opportunities for women to flourish,” she said.
After moving to Australia Lulu promised herself that she would give back to the people who desperately needed her help.
“Giving back to the most vulnerable members of the community and seeing the changes that you can make really resonated with me and my faith,” she said.
She has been working with Catholic agency Caritas Australia to help the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in the DRC, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
Caritas’ programs focus on education, health and gender-based violence.
“Our integrated programs generally target women who are the most vulnerable,” Lulu said.
“You can’t address the problems women face without working with the men who are the perpetrators the majority of the time.
“I have seen some the changes that have taken place, including women who were not able to speak or had lost their confidence taking the lead in their community and learning new skills.
“It’s really sad to think we are still fighting for the rights of women especially in my home country where women continue to be treated like they are worthless.”