Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for the invitation to appear before the members of the committee to give my testimony. This gives me the opportunity to talk about the situation of women in my country, and also about the needs of our population in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Canada has been supporting my country for several decades. Canada has come to the aid of the survivors of sexual violence, a plague that ravages and destroys the dignity of Congolese women, our dignity, my dignity. Canada supports several projects in Congo. Our organization, the Congolese Women's Fund, is currently executing a project funded by the Women, Peace and Security Program, entitled “Renforcement des capacités des femmes sur la médiation des conflits électoraux en République démocratique du Congo”, to strengthen women's skills in mediating electoral conflicts in the DRC. We are in the midst of an electoral process at this time. As we speak today, in the context of that project, we have begun training 30 electoral conflict mediators, 45 observers and 45 candidates. We are grateful to the people of Canada, to its government, and to its Parliament.
Today we are discussing conflict, peace and security. It is important to include women in all steps in the resolution of conflicts and in the peace process, whether village women or city women. Since violence reigns over our daily lives, we Congolese women are trying to force open the door so that we can participate and take our place in the peace process, pursuant to United Nations Resolution 1325. Armed conflicts continue to dehumanize the Congolese people.
In light of this, we are asking Canada to work for peace, not only by offering financial aid to mitigate the consequences of this violence, notably by supporting the project to fight against sexual violence—and we are very grateful for that help—but also by providing men in the commands and United Nations troops to fight these anti-values and contribute effectively to the establishment of peace.
We have been through atrocious wars for more than 20 years in the DRC. It is more than time for Canada to really get involved and throw all of its weight behind ending these interminable wars. Armed groups or rebels from neighbouring countries like Rwanda or Uganda should go back to their countries, and we want Canada to help us defend that point of view and support our efforts so that they are sent back home. A program to demobilize local militia should be supported by Canada. Your country will, however, have to see to it that women take part in the development of that program, to avoid past errors that occurred in other programs set up by other countries.
Canada must support women's associations directly and trust Congolese organizations, so that the funding we have heard about, from the feminist fund, is used to support the efforts of Congolese women.
In order to resolve conflicts, women have to be involved in the peace negotiation process and in politics. Canada must provide significant financial and technical support for the efforts made by Congolese women, and for the organizations that are working for peace, pursuant to Resolution 1325. Canada must also facilitate exchanges with other women in the world and in Canada about their experience. Moreover, Canada should support training for young people and women on peaceful cohabitation.
Canada should strengthen its influence in the Great Lakes region and ask leaders to respect their commitments to peace and non-aggression and the fight against sexual violence. It should also support the peoples' efforts in advocating for democracy.
Despite this bleak picture, the Congolese people, especially the women, remain hopeful. They're working tirelessly and with a smile. We want to change our situation and build a real democracy to reach the targets set out in the sustainable development objectives by 2030. That's why the Congolese people, especially women, are working each day to ensure credible, free, transparent and democratic elections. We don't want any election that could plunge us back into even more deplorable situations. We want the system to change. We're asking Canada to support this hope.
Democracy brings peace and security. Canada must help the Congolese people in their quest for free, transparent, democratic and peaceful elections. Today, the Congolese people want and deserve clean elections, with a level playing field, real choices and real competition. We're asking Canada to work with its allies and local partners to support Congo and address the important aspects of the electoral process, such as the security of the vote and fraud prevention. Through its support of major observation missions, Canada has always been a leader in promoting free and fair elections around the world.
In terms of respect for human rights, Canada must help us by clearly expressing its position on the serious human rights violations occurring in the DRC. Canada must work with its partners to put pressure on the authorities in the DRC and on anyone who commits human rights violations or sexual violence or who pillages resources. This includes the neighbouring countries that, in doing so, perpetuate the wars.
Justice strengthens peace, and peace is fuelled by justice. Canada must support the restoration of justice, since legal dysfunction and impunity fuel conflicts. Canada must also make significant efforts to help the judges and lawyers who support reform and to improve access to a fair justice system for ordinary Congolese people, especially women survivors of conflict and sexual violence.
We're asking Canada to become involved and to support free elections, an independent judiciary, a strong civil society and free media. These are the essential components of democracy, where accountable and transparent decision-making is the norm and where people and their rights are respected and protected. This will address serious human rights violations and build democracy, peace and development.
A new Congolese Women's Fund project will help the associations provide access to legal aid for the most vulnerable women survivors, work for peace so that they can also benefit...