Deepening democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Deepening democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

For International Development Week 2020, we are showcasing the impact that our member organizations are having around the world. This blog post from Development and Peace is the second in a special series. Make sure to read it and share it with your network!


A people-power project 

After decades of civil war and political turmoil, the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo were hoping for an orderly transfer of power through elections scheduled for November 2016. Well before then, Development and Peace — Caritas Canada’s long-time partner, the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (CENCO), had realized that attaining and sustaining true democracy would require an empowered citizenry.  


To that end, Development and Peace and CENCO, with a generous grant of $9.778 million from Global Affairs Canada, launched an ambitious civic and electoral education project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in early 2016.  


A massive movement  

Over a two-year period, the project organized five national campaigns whose highlights included:  

  • The training of 10,000 facilitators across the country’s 26 provinces 
  • The delivery of 900,000 workshops on democracy, rights, citizenship and community living 
  • The civic education of nearly 20 million Congolese citizens (a majority being women and youths) 
  • The production of Lingala-, Tshiluba-, Kikongo- and Swahili-language radio shows on civic issues featuring locally popular actors 
  • The broadcast of these shows on 80 radio stations to an estimated 10 million listeners 


In 2018, when elections were finally held after several delays, the 10,000 facilitators deployed as observers at polling stations nationwide. By monitoring the elections and encouraging people to vote, they helped bring about a long-awaited democratic change of guard.  


An ongoing effort  

Currently, the project is mobilizing people to demand local-level elections to counter the undemocratic tendency to appoint local officials by federal patronage. Signed by 2 million citizens, the petition for this demand is already the largest in Congolese history. Additional workshops are sensitizing people to the need to overcome tribalism, reject violence and encourage women to vie for political office. To secure a democratic future, the project is pilot testing new civic and moral education textbooks in 500 classrooms.  


Pursuing sustainable development goals  

By fostering equitable democratic participation, Development and Peace and CENCO have advanced the sustainable development goals of Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions and Gender Equality in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The citizenry now knows its rights better; understands the power of peaceful, cooperative action; is likelier to support women; and is more able and willing to hold power to account.  



Development and Peace – Caritas Canada is the official international development organization of the Catholic Church in Canada. It works in partnership with local organizations in over 30 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin American and the Middle East to create greater justice in the world and to act in solidarity with the most vulnerable.  

Empowered women lift a community

Empowered women lift a community

For International Development Week 2020, we are showcasing the impact that our member organizations are having around the world. This blog post from Will Postma, Executive Director, PWRDF is the first in a special series. Make sure to read it and share it with your network!


Virginie Nizigama is one of many exceptional local women who volunteers at the Village Health Works clinic in Kigutu, Burundi. It’s hard to miss her when you tour the clinic. There she is explaining new varieties of maize, onion and beans and how they can best grow with organic fertilizers. “No outside fertilizer needed!” There’s Virginie again, with other women, milking the cows, tending to the pigs and the chickens and collecting the eggs (there were 32 on the day we visited with her) to give to the patients. As for the milk, that’s also for the patients who need it. And there’s Virginie, telling women and men how to diversify their diets, grow the best varieties of vegetables so they won’t need to come to the clinics as often, and keep their children healthy for school. “We can’t eat manioc all the time,” she patiently explains to the others. It grows easily and quickly on the hills around Kigutu but so can many other plants that are much more nutritious. 


Village Health Works is one of four Maternal, Newborn and Child Health partners in PWRDF’s All Mothers and Children Count (AMCC) program, made possible with the support of Global Affairs Canada and Canadians across the country. Clean water, safe births, increased income, trained community health workers, greater awareness of reproductive rights and accessible neo-natal programming are just a few of the results that the AMCC program has made possible in Burundi, as well as in Rwanda, Tanzania and Mozambique.  


Across VHW’s program we see the nit and grit of women’s empowerment, addressing on Sustainable Development Goals #3 (health and well-being) and #5 (gender equality). Women meet together to talk about the design of expectant mothers’ homes. “Keep the sinks higher so we don’t need to bend down too much,” they advise. “Space the beds in the houses just so; the windows should be here; let’s build the expectant mothers’ homes closer to the maternity ward itself.” Here mothers can stay during the days before they give birth, get the care they need and not have to walk long distances over the many hills to deliver their child in a safe, clean environment. 


I continue to hear the encouraging words of Virginie to all around her. “I want to give back, I love being able to share whatever I know. It’s my passion, my hope for all of us to be healthy and educated and to help others,” she says. Then she turns to get back to the business at hand. “Now, let me show you how you can plant and grow bananas…” 

New CCIC Member: Hope and Healing International

New CCIC Member: Hope and Healing International

CCIC is happy to welcome Hope and Healing International (formerly cbm Canada) as its newest member!

Hope and Healing International has over 110 years of experience developing proven community-based programs that help millions of people break out of the poverty-disability cycle, allowing them to benefit from real, lasting change.

Hope and Healing International works with doctors, teachers, health workers, community advocates together with partners in 16 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. They engage Canadians passionate about giving hope and medical care to children and families trapped in the poverty-disability cycle.

The organization works on:

  • Prevention and Medical treatment
  • Rehabilitation
  • Creating Equal Opportunities

To learn more about the organization and the work that they do, please visit their site.


Young African Women Leading for Climate Action and Equality

Young African Women Leading for Climate Action and Equality

Throughout Gender Equality Week, CCIC will highlight the work that some of our members are doing to advance gender equality. This blog post was written by Catherine Boyce, Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED), and presents their Climate-Smart Agriculture Guides which won the UN Global Climate Action Award this past week.

Can you imagine toiling all day in the heat; getting your children to help you in the fields, and still not growing enough to feed your family and earn a living? This is a reality today for millions of women across rural Africa who shoulder the burden of farming to feed their families but who are hit by the double whammy of a female resource deficit and the impact of climate change.

On the female resource deficit – women farmers are typically 20-30% less productive than men. This is not because they work less hard – in fact they work longer hours on average. However, they don’t have access to the same assets – land and water – training, finance, information services and quality inputs such as seeds that male farmers do. Address that inequality and the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation estimates that as many as 150 million people will be lifted out of hunger worldwide.

Meanwhile, however, agricultural productivity is diminishing and under further threat in the face of more extreme weather which manifests as droughts, floods and the recent, devastating Cyclones Idai and Kenneth; destroying lives and livelihoods. For communities in rural Africa, climate change is not a theoretical concept or a risk that lies many  years in the future. It’s happening now. Rural African girls and women contribute negligibly to greenhouse emissions but are the first to feel the effects of climate change as they struggle to cultivate the land to produce enough to feed their families. They are particularly vulnerable to hunger, early marriage and violence in the context of resource scarcity.

We need a global response to this global threat. Like so many others, I’ve been tremendously inspired by young people’s action on climate change. Much of that action is taking place in sub-Saharan Africa, headed by young women living in some of the poorest rural communities. They are leading grassroots community action to safeguard food cultivation in the face of climate change, to manage water resources, and to protect trees and soil quality.

The Campaign for Female Education alumnae network – CAMA – is a movement of 140,000 educated young African women. Together they are spearheading action on climate change. This week they received the UN Global Climate Action Award in recognition of the effectiveness and potential for scale of CAMA’s climate action. Recipients of this UN Award represent some of the most practical, scalable and replicable examples of what people, businesses, governments and industries are doing to tackle climate change.

I first met Annie N’gandu in Zambia in 2008 when she was helping to run a leadership and enterprise initiative for other recent school graduates. Her positivity belies the tragedy of her childhood; she was orphaned at a young age and poverty meant that she missed many years of education. With support from the Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED), however, Annie was trained in entrepreneurship and launched and grew a successful agricultural business. For the last five years, Annie has been championing climate-smart agriculture in rural Zambia:

“I explain the spacing of maize and beets for example, so that they grow well and how to make compost from manure. I teach people how to build a clean cook stove, which uses less wood and produces less smoke. I also train people on waste management. Now they recycle or sell waste for money.” 

Annie N’gandu, Agriculture Guide in Zambia

Annie has reached hundreds of other smallholders, young people and women’s groups with the skills they need to protect their farms from the more extreme weather that climate change has brought, and to improve productivity. She has won the confidence and support of local government agricultural officers, who invite her to train alongside them, and of traditional leaders, such as Chief Nkula who has been inspired to award a land grant of 300 hectares to cultivate a climate-smart demo farm. She’s also increased productivity on her own farm, provided a home for three abandoned children and supported more young people to go to school.

Annie isn’t alone in her climate leadership. From Eva Damasi who is building support for agroforestry in Tanzania to Clarah Zinyama in Zimbabwe who is working with mothers’ groups to boost the productivity of the smallholdings used to cultivate food for school meals; CAMA members are leading action on climate change across rural Africa.

These young women – known as Agricultural Guides – promote both traditional and innovative techniques for climate-smart agriculture. They were supported to develop their skills by the Toronto-based Mastercard Foundation, and EARTH University in Costa Rica, who, together with CAMFED and CAMA, developed a tailored course in sustainable agriculture. Helping to shape the content, the women leaders ensured it would be relevant to the context they live and work in, and in keeping with indigenous traditions.

Clarah, for example, has re-introduced intercropping – growing two crops on the same plot of land – on her farm. It’s a technique formerly practised by her grandmother that reduces soil runoff, preserves soil nutrients and helps with pest management. She re-uses old plastic bottles for affordable drip irrigation, setting them in the soil with tiny holes in the cap to steadily release water. Clarah also trains community groups to construct simple solar dryers to preserve food and reduce waste.

The results are clear to see in increased yields, family nutrition and income. To date Annie, Clarah and Eva and a small team of CAMA Agricultural Guides have reached over 8,500 people across rural Africa with knowledge and techniques to build farming productivity and build resilience in the face of climate change. These include affordable methods of irrigation, crop-rotation, organic composting and mulching which improve soil nutrition and carbon storage, water management and productivity. They are raising awareness in their communities of waste management and how to build cleaner cook stoves from local resources which use less fuel and reduce further carbon emissions. The Agricultural Guides are seeing the results in improved yields and profits on their own farms, have increased standing in their communities and have created an average of four new paid jobs each.

They’re also helping girls to succeed in school and beyond. Last year, for example, CAMA members used their own resources to help over 700,000 children go to school. They help each other to navigate the transition from school and build fulfilling livelihoods, moving up the value chain and seeing agriculture as a business opportunity. When girls stay in school and women generate an income they can avoid early marriage, gain decision-making power and take control over their life choices. These are top priorities in their own right which also have positive climate effects. They result in a later age at marriage and smaller, healthier families and cumulatively reduce both population growth and greenhouse emissions.

As Annie, Clarah and Eve’s experience demonstrates, it’s critical that our global climate strategy builds the strength of vulnerable communities to adjust to the effects of climate change, while urgently reducing further greenhouse emissions. At the Campaign for Female Education we’re working to get more resources into the hands of these young women on the frontline of climate change. Clarah sums up what this week’s UN Global Climate Action Award means to her and her peers:

“We are so excited about this global recognition of CAMA’s leadership in climate-smart agriculture. As a network, we are developing and sharing expertise that ranges from better land management and tackling deforestation to the use of climate-smart crops, solar heating and traditional refrigeration techniques. Our network enables us to cascade our knowledge to farmers across numerous rural districts, helping to build resilience to climate shocks while improving productivity, reducing emissions, and nourishing school communities. This award celebrates what is possible when we all work together to tackle two of the most urgent issues of our time: girls’ exclusion from education, and climate change.”

Clarah Zinyama, Agriculture Guide in Zimbabwe

Let us all endeavour to match her activism on climate change and stand together on this global challenge.

Catherine Boyce

Catherine Boyce

Director of Enterprise Development, Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED)

For 25 years, the Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) has united communities in a collective effort to secure the right to education for the most excluded girls, resulting in more than 3.3 million children receiving support to go to school across Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Ghana and Malawi.

As Director of Enterprise Development, Catherine works to connect young, educated women – members of the CAMFED alumnae network CAMA – to the resources and support they need to play a leading role for climate action, jobs and prosperity in rural sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to joining CAMFED in 2008,

Catherine was a strategy consultant specialising in entrepreneurship. She studied history at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford.

KAIROS’ Women of Courage Empowers Women Peacebuilders

KAIROS’ Women of Courage Empowers Women Peacebuilders

The Women, Peace and Security Group – Parliamentary Visit (Photo submitted by KAIROS)

Throughout Gender Equality Week, CCIC will highlight the work that some of our members are doing to advance gender equality. This blog post was written by Rachel Warden of KAIROS Canada.

“Knowing the Organización Femenina Popular has allowed me to recover my life project, to believe in myself again, to give myself the right to feel joy, to heal emotionally and psychologically. Now, I also believe that I can help other women so that they might not experience violence and so that they believe in peace.” – Nancy, who participated in a training on Colombia’s Peace Agreement, spoke about the impact of the Organización Femenina Popular, a KAIROS partner, on her life.    

This is one of many stories of change we heard during the first year of KAIROS’ Women of Courage: Women, Peace and Security (WPS) program. Participants in the program spoke of claiming their rights to heal and take legal action. 

In just one year, the program undertook critical steps towards transformative change for women victims and survivors of violence in the Global South – despite regional difference, escalating security threats and political challenges.

The WPS program is based on solid evidence that women victims and survivors of violence in armed conflict and post conflict situations are empowered through psychosocial and legal support. This support helps them heal, restore their self-esteem and realize legal rights, becoming key voices in peace building processes.

Partners include: Héritiers de la Justice, in the Democratic Republic of Congo; National Council of Churches in the Philippines; South Sudan Council of Churches National Women’s Programme (SSCC-NWP); Organización Femenina Popular (OFP), in Colombia; and Wi’am: Palestinian Conflict Transformation Center, in the West Bank.

During the first year, KAIROS and its partners achieved significant results despite challenges. Partners reported that a total 4,700 direct beneficiaries were reached: more than 1,000 women survivors of gender-based violence received psychosocial, over 600 women and men participated in gender awareness training and more than 1,100 women and men participated in training sessions on national and international frameworks. 

Furthermore, close to 800 women were trained as human rights facilitators and 109 campaigns were organized, advocating for legislation, law reform and implementation that related to women, peace and security, including campaigns directed at male allies in government, multilateral organizations and media.

 “These lessons on human rights have certainly opened my eyes to see the imbalance not only in our households, but also in our institutions,” said Captain John Jeremiah, a Chaplain who participated in SSCC-NWP’s training on gender justice and human rights.

A unique component of this program is the focus on South-South and South-North gatherings and exchanges. In November 2018, an inaugural South-South gathering brought all partners together in Toronto to share experiences and strategies. Partners later travelled to Ottawa for important meetings with Parliamentarians, government and other civil society organizations.   

Key international days and events such as the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence against Women (November 25-December 10), International Women’s Day (March 8) and the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW) provided opportunities to highlight the partners’ work and advocate for women peacebuilders. 

KAIROS launched the WPS program in 2018 in collaboration with Global Affairs Canada, which injected $4.5 million over five years to support the work of these grassroots women-focused organizations. This support is made possible with matching funding from KAIROS member churches and development agencies, religious communities and individual donors.

KAIROS’ partners are a testament to the courageous and effective work of grassroots women-focused programs in peacebuilding and are a concrete example of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy in action.

Rachel Warden

Rachel Warden

Partnerships Manager, KAIROS Canada

Rachel is KAIROS’ Partnerships Manager. She has been involved in the human rights and social justice work of the churches for more than 20 years and in solidarity and social justice movements for much longer, starting with the anti-apartheid and divestment movement and the Nicaraguan solidarity movement in high school and university.

She holds an honours degree in International Development Studies from the University of Toronto, and a graduate certificate Gender and Peacebuilding from the University of Peace of the United Nations in Costa Rica.

Rachel is an experienced Popular and Adult Educator and fearless flute player and member of the Fallen Angles musical group. Finally, but most importantly to her, she is the mother of two beautiful, wise, compassionate and independent young women.

Bridging the Gap in Gender Equality and Adolescent Nutrition Education

Bridging the Gap in Gender Equality and Adolescent Nutrition Education

Nutrition International launched a free online course titled Adolescent Nutrition and Anaemia to help fill a gap in available training and education and to support action in this very important area.

Throughout Gender Equality Week, CCIC will highlight the work that some of our members are doing to advance gender equality. This blog post has been written by Dr. Marion Roche, Senior Technical Advisor for Adolescent and Women’s Health and Nutrition, with Nutrition International.

After the first 1,000 days, adolescence is the most rapid period of growth and development. It is also a period when lifestyle and dietary habits can be formed and offers a window of opportunity for interventions to improve nutrition at this critical period. Despite this, adolescents are often missed by health and nutrition interventions, as until recently they had not been viewed as a priority.

This is especially true for adolescent girls, who are particularly affected by malnutrition, partly due to their specific biological needs.

Iron deficiency anaemia is recognized as the number one cause of disability adjusted life years―defined as lost years of optimal health―in adolescent girls 10 to 19 years of age globally.

Anaemia is an indicator of both poor nutrition and poor health and results in negative health consequences, including decreases in potential school performance in children and adolescents due to slowed cognitive and socioemotional development and difficulties in concentration. For adolescent girls, this can mean challenges focusing in school and a lack of energy to participate in community or household activities, therefore disrupting their educational opportunities and economic empowerment. In addition, should an adolescent girl become pregnant, iron deficiency anaemia can put both the mother and her baby at great health risk.

Although the importance of adolescent health and the devastating impacts of iron deficiency anaemia have been acknowledged globally, there is currently no one-stop-shop for information about adolescent nutrition and anaemia. There is a need for greater focus on, and more resources allocated to, improving nutrition for adolescents around the world as this is a critical period of growth and development. Nutrition International’s online course on Adolescent Nutrition and Anaemia helps bridge this knowledge gap.

We worked with experts in the field, learning specialists and course designers to develop this thorough course for more than a year in order to bring the highest caliber information in an easy-to-use video format for use by adolescent nutrition program officers, implementers, partners, nutrition graduate students, health providers, policy makers and decision makers.

We’re thrilled at the enthusiasm that has been shown for the course already, as well as the positive feedback we’ve received. The knowledge acquired through this course will build the capacity of individuals and organizations to better understand and address the nutrition of adolescents, ultimately working to overcome gender inequalities and to improve nutrition for adolescents.

We must build our global capacity to support girls to feel empowered to have access to adequate health and nutrition, to have equal opportunity to receive quality education and to eventually participate in the workforce.

More information on the free registration and the Adolescent Nutrition and Anaemia Course full syllabus is available at our website here

Marion Roche

Marion Roche

Senior Technical Advisor for Adolescent and Women’s Health and Nutrition

Marion Roche joined Nutrition International in 2011 and is the Senior Technical Advisor for Adolescent and Women’s Health and Nutrition. In her role, Marion supports and provides strategic direction to Nutrition International’s programs that advocate, build capacity, and generate evidence to improve adolescent girls’ and women’s health and nutrition.

Marion leads the design, introduction, scale-up and evaluation of adolescent nutrition interventions – a growing area of interest and investment, globally.

Marion works with national governments and partners to strengthen access to delivery platforms for adolescent and women’s nutrition interventions, including weekly iron and folic acid (IFA) supplementation to prevent anaemia. Her goal is to support adolescent girls and women to thrive and be valued.

With over 12 years of experience in public health nutrition program implementation, and implementation research, Marion has worked extensively to improve maternal, infant and child nutrition with a focus on innovative interventions.

Marion has expertise in behaviour change communication, community and global nutrition, infant and young child feeding, intervention design and evaluation, implementation research, qualitative research and social marketing. She has a PhD in Nutrition, a MPH in Global Health and a MSc Nutrition.