Human rights defender
Eveline is human rights defender from Uvira, in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo. She has been active for several years as a coach to the youth and has been involved in projects with the local population focusing on gender equality and the fight against domestic violence. She recently set up her own organisation called Femmes pour la Paix et la Justice Social (Women for Peace and Social Justice), with which she undertook many activities such as awareness-raising on good governance and corruption, sensitisation of women about their role in a democratic society, education of the general public about gender equality.
Due to the fact that she denounces corruption and gender violence and discrimination, Eveline is known among local armed groups and militias fighting for power in the region. In eastern DRC, attacks against civilians by local military groups and government forces are part of the fabric of daily life. Rampant corruption enables a few political and military elites to remain in power and live luxuriously. The vested interests of the elite, as well as deeply entrenched patriarchal norms, make any attempt for change unwelcome. HRD’s “carry out their work in an extremely risky environment, and face an eminent threat of being attacked, abducted, arbitrarily arrested and tortured. The situation is all the more difficult for women HRD’s, as they are traditionally not expected to raise their voice against the established order. Administrative and political authorities do not always welcome actions to empower women, as they fear it could eventually strengthen support for their political opponents.
Eveline has been put under a lot of pressure because of her work as a woman for women. She has been held and interrogated by the National Intelligence Agency several times in relation to activities she carried out with communities. Last December, she left for Bujumbura after an against her life. But she got injured in a second grenade attack in Burundi, followed by anonymous phone calls and threats from unknown people who claim they know her location.
It was necessary for Eveline to leave the region for a while and recover from the traumatic events she has endured. Her stay in The Netherlands will allow the current tension to subside and offer her a safe space to regain new energy before going back to her work in Uvira and Burundi. She also wants to take this time off to elaborate new plans for her organisation and to draw inspiration from the people and organisations she will encounter in The Hague. The training provided by Justice and Peace will further strengthen her capacities in terms of digital and physical security, human rights reporting and advocacy skills.
Shelter City is a country-wide initiative by Justice and Peace Netherlands, in cooperation with Dutch cities and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which aims to protect Human Rights Defenders. Often HRD’s face threats, violence, harassment and intimidation for their work. HRD can be eligible for a three-month stay in one of the Dutch Shelter Cities. Besides providing rest and respite, their stay in the Netherlands allows them to continue their work in a safe environment. In addition, they enlarge their professional network of civil society organizations and political connections in The Hague, Brussels, and elsewhere. Furthermore, they can participate in training courses to develop relevant skills. Moreover, through public events and workshops, they contribute to raising awareness about human rights among the citizens of the Shelter Cities.
With the support of Den Haag City Council and Justice and Peace Netherlands, Eveline will stay in the City of The Hague for a period of three months.
Photo: Anette Brolenius