Resilience and Women’s Strategies for Protection

by Aline Mugishu

Aline Mugisho is back from an extensive field trip to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as part of her doctoral research: “Protection Through Social Resilience: An analysis of women strategies for protection in Eastern DRC.”

Aline is a DAAD-funded PhD student at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. While in DRC, she was hosted by Oxfam Novib (Netherlands) and interviewed national and international NGOs, women movements, Congolese Government officials, Community and church based organisations, the police and army as well as women themselves. Using the Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM) data collection tools, she worked with women at all levels to identify informal strategies they develop to protect themselves and elaborate on how these can be used to create sustainable protection for women in DRC.

In 12 villages, Aline conducted participatory research through which women (educated and uneducated) came together in groups and contributed to constructing a protection flower using the CMM’s daisy model (commonly referred to as marguerita). Each petal of the flower symbolized a meaning women attached to protection, identified whose duty it is to protect and which tools should be used. The daisies were filled with arts, dots and any other means that women were comfortable with in expressing their ideas of protection. Additionally, women expressed how they conceive ideas and how they communicate them using traditionally popular channels that have been used in the past to communicate or send out a message within their community. At this point, women drew their own action map using CMM’s serpentine and hierarchy model and defined critical moments but also patterns of protection as well as the timeframe that women have taken to attain it.

From the village to the city, Aline met with women movements, non-profit organizations and other institutions protecting women in the city to establish the link between formal protection strategies and the informal ones in the villages. In these interviews she learnt the various meaning of protection for women in a somewhat similar conflict situation but living in different areas. Her field trip was concluded with meetings with four national ministers having the mandate to protect women in DRC.