Douce Namwezi N'Ibamba on being a leading female journalist in the Democratic Republic of Congo and founding the first women’s radio station

Douce Namwezi N'Ibamba is a multimedia journalist and founder of Uwezo Afrika Initiative (, a non profit initiative promoting women's empowerment through journalism, job training and social entrepreneurship. Douce started producing radio at the age of 16 when she joined the Women Media Association (AFEM) in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Since my childhood, I have always wanted to speak on the microphone, travel and interact with people. At 16, I did not hesitate to join the initiative of the director of Radio Maria/Bukavu, focused on the learning of young reporters. I was passionate about relaying the stories of other children accused of witchcraft or living in the street, convinced that talking about it could change their situation; Later, I joined the association of women in the media AFEM, where I took the drop in the promotion and defense of women's rights. Currently, I use social media, and online media to continue the struggle for communities' access to information and the promotion of young people.

Several challenges have shaped my career. I will only quote 3 for the sake of brevity. First, community resistance to issues of gender equality and human rights in general. Several times, the interlocutors were convinced that talking about gender is not worth the trouble, that our Congolese society was already so good with the way relations between men and women were established, that these subjects were imported from the West to destroy society. etc. I had to insist, find conciliatory languages and gradually make people aware of the inequalities existences, visible (such as girls' access to education) and invisible (often non-verbal discriminatory attitudes).

Second, there are the security conditions in rural areas. When I had to go out into the field, report in places like Shabunda, Kaniola, Kichanga (these are the names of villages in my region), where atrocities of all kinds take place (rape, theft, killings), I told myself every moment that nothing could spare me and that I could also be a victim. This psychological pressure was not easy, but over time you learn to live with it and pray that nothing bad happens.

Finally, I will talk about the difficult socio-professional environment for women, i.e stereotypes and prejudices against women journalists. Customary social habits are that women stay at home, do not have access to and control over resources, marry, raise children, etc. but above all, that they do not speak in public. Being a female journalist kind of challenges all of these roles because it's a job that transforms you into a public figure. And some men don't hesitate to feel "threatened". Several times I have been subjected to languages such as "You must not stare straight men in the eyes when you talk to them", "If you spend your time traveling, no one will be able to marry you", "You make women proud by giving them spaces for expression.”

When I was 18, I joined AFEM as a producer of radio programs on issues of women's rights, sexual and gender-based violence. At the same time, I have been trained a lot not only on these themes but also on journalism. At the time, there was no journalism school in my area and many journalists were self-educating on the job. AFEM offered learning opportunities which helped improve our radio productions. As an association, the organization also had to comply with donor requirements in terms of planning, project development and report writing. Internally we have been trained, alongside journalistic practice, to meet these requirements. We have, over the years, been promoted to assume the leadership of the organization. Each step was an opportunity for learning, networking, personal development as a feminist, as a journalist and as a citizen of the world.

 Of course, in a context in which I grew up, of violent conflict followed by situations of neither peace nor war, journalism is a weapon that can prevent or fuel conflicts. Depending on the types of topics we choose to tackle, the people we choose to give the floor to, the analyzes we conduct, we can easily bring together communities or groups in conflict just as we can perpetuate these conflicts I realized, as a journalist, I could make a difference with my writing and my microphone, but more could be done by acting on other issues in other ways. During my reports on sexual and reproductive rights, women and girls have discussed issues related to menstrual hygiene management. By analyzing around me, I realized that there were not enough alternatives at school, at work, at church and in discussions with friends, we said to ourselves " Why not make them and make them available and accessible? ". There are also challenges for young girls, especially in using ICTs or accessing financial resources, and we felt that we could work in these areas as well. Finally, as a feminist, I realized that it was possible to change social norms, transmitting new societal values through cultural activities. In consortium with other organizations, we are setting up the KWETU ARTs Cultural Space that can influence gender equality.

 I always encourage young girls and women to do journalism despite all the challenges and all possible reasons that may discourage them. For our societies to change, there must be women working for that, and women journalists are at the heart of this change, thanks to the power that this profession gives them. That young women arm themselves with courage, self-sacrifice, a taste for risk and perseverance to become "good" journalists, give voice to vulnerable people who have no voice, cover stories / subjects that change the situation in the community and above all contribute to the Construction of a more just, more equal and more balanced society.