Global Partnership to End Violence Against Women
Annie Rashidi-Mulumba has been at the forefront of advocacy for women’s rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since her time in university. Annie works to change legislation and to encourage women to see themselves as individuals with power, to learn their rights, and fight for them. As the Director of the Congolese Female Lawyers Association, a nonprofit that seeks to improve the lives of sexually abused victims in the DRC, Annie fights for women’s rights and provides support to victims.
Growing up in Eastern Congo, Annie was witness to rape and abuse much of her life. After she completed law school, Annie traveled around Africa, working for the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights — learning first-hand about issues across the continent ranging from women’s rights to freedom of expression to human and indigenous rights. After returning to the DRC, Annie committed to working on issues in her own country and helping her community.
Annie realized that one of the core issues associated with informing women about their rights, in addition to educating them about rape and abuse, was that in the DRC there was no word for rape. Working with her colleagues, she identified a word in Swahili that was closely correlated to rape and started awareness campaigns on television, through the radio and newspapers and by conducting workshops, educating the public on what rape is and why it is against the law. “Maybe if I continue talking, something will change. You dream to see things change one day. You want to see women being respected, women sitting at the same table as men, on an equal basis," said Annie.
Annie has also dedicated her life to mobilizing women and training them to vote responsibly. Prior to the most recent elections in November of 2011, she not only worked to educate voters, but also spoke with different political parties, encouraging them to include programs and policies for women’s rights, asking them if and how they were going to end the violence, and demanding information about what steps they had in place to follow through on their promises. She also pushed voters to think about what would benefit them: “Who is the candidate protecting your rights? Think about the future, about your kids, about yourselves.”
Today, Annie continues to speak out against the government and in support of women’s rights in the DRC. For these efforts, she has been arrested numerous times and has had many threats against her life. While she believes that the system is currently broken, she argues that change is nonetheless possible: “We know we don’t have the means, but we have the passion.”
Annie is a consultant on human rights for the United Nations, focusing on refugees in West Africa, and the DRC lead delegate to the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Women, an initiative of Vital Voices Global Partnership and the Avon Foundation.