Research in Congo (DRC)

In 2012 we supported the change of the existing Kivufone project of Radio Maendeleo in Bukavu into the FemmeauFone project, directly geared towards and implemented by women. We involved a group of around 35 women from all main villages in Southern Kivu in monitoring the security situation of women. Results were used in weekly radio programmes on Radio Maendeleo. The complete research was done by the Femme-au-Fone-team (FAF)-Bukavu, supported by Tatiana Miralles, Blanca Diego, and ourselves as consultants.

Femme au Fone is a project based on an SMS communication system that connects local women to women's organizations lobbying on local, national and international level. This communication system based on texts messages, processes information by way of computer, managed by a multidisciplinary team. This team is responsible for verifying, analysing and distributing the SMS information, according to an established protocol and by using multiple media, mainly a weekly radio programme on Radio Maendeleo, the largest community radio station in South Kivu, with 1 million listeners.

The Sensemapping research
We used Sensemapping in order to be able to write a thorough annual report in 3 consecutive years, thus creating a barometer of women’s security in South Kivu.
The Femme au Fone (FAF)-team conducted 110 interviews, based on a network analysis forthcoming from the SMS-data (the 1536 SMS). Together with these interviews we also held 110 surveys in 6 out of 8 main towns/ villages in the province. Also based on the network analysis we selected 35 people filling in Smartphone surveys fortnightly based on their own indicators (as established in participative focus groups). The results of these ‘triangulated data’ were discussed in 96 (weekly) radio programs, in which the audience could also phone in.

The data on which this research is based are 1.536 SMS sent by over 700 women and men from all territories of South Kivu between 1st January, 2014 and 31st December, 2015. From the start of the project till the end, over 25 groups of women actively participated in Femme au Fone, sending SMS about their security.
The editorial team of Femme au Fone verified (most of the time by calling the sender) all SMS and other data. This way also a difference could be made between SMS reacting on the broadcasts (‘solicited SMS’) and SMS reporting incidents as far as security was concerned (‘spontaneous SMS’). In this research, we only used the latter for our further research with Sensemapping.

Desk study: The theoretical base of this research was in the first place the theory of gender based violence, as it exists in peacetime and how this becomes worse in times of conflict (with sexual violence as its worst expression). Our notion of the continuum in time and in space is derived from this body of knowledge. We used the 'pillars' of 1325 UN resolution in order to model our categorisations and indicators of (in) security based on information from interviews with women from the villages. These corresponded with the security indicators from the analysed SMS messages. Thus, we were able to formulate a list of indicators, which were verified in 3 workshops in November 2014 with 60 women from different territories of the Kivu’s. The indicators of the FAF program measure the degree of security or insecurity experienced by women in South Kivu according to their own opinions. Principal limitations of the methodology are that FAF worked with qualitative data (the SMS) sent by a group of around 700 people, a small proportion of the population of South-Kivu (although with presence in all territories) and not a random sample. The contacts sending SMS are part and parcel of the listeners’ groups of the partner organizations (AFEM, Maendeleo, SPR), as well as listeners in general of Radio Maendeleo. These groups are quite diverse: they are (mostly female) agriculturalists, housewives, cattle breeders, dressmakers, schoolteachers, local administrators, activists of NGOs, students, but the majority of them are activists and eager to report on malpractices. Furthermore, the analysis we made has limits as well: we have not been able to make (qualitative) interviews and surveys in all territories, meaning that in some territories (where we only have SMS, Smartphone surveys and radio interviews like in Shabunda and Kalehe) we have analyzed the security of women less deeply. Ethical considerations: In order to protect our sources of information, as well as their safety all sources are made anonymous, be it the senders of SMS, the interviewed, as well as the people who joined radio broadcasts, etc.
The research team has been part of the editorial team of Femme au Fone. They were daily supported by two experts-journalists in gender and methodology (WorldCom-LolaMora team in the field) (and us as Sensemapping team twice a year).

Use of Smartphones to collect time bound data: FAF received in total 17.000 reports on incidents from 35 people based on a list of 101 indicators. The first group (15 women) started in November 2014, the second in May 2015. They lived in all territories. They answered the survey installed on their Smartphone and as soon as they had access to internet they could upload to the FAF server. All in all, through the 101 self-established questions (indicators, established in workshops in 2014) FAF took the ‘temperature’ of the most frequent incidents (regarding security of women).

Data analysis: The editorial team of Femme au Fone verified (most of the time by calling the sender) all SMS and other data. This way also a difference could be made between SMS reacting on the broadcasts (‘provoked SMS’) and SMS reporting incidents as far as security was concerned (‘spontaneous SMS). In this research, we only considered the latter, because we wanted to use the reports on incidents only and we also wanted to avoid possible bias. The Smartphone Survey database could be quantitatively analysed for the most pressing, frequent and apparent issues that women experience (i.e., types of violence, insecurity). From here using tables and/or graphs for all data together (per territory but also over the whole of South Kivu) preliminary results were produced and discussed in the editorial board, in radio programmes and in several workshops.

Some examples of the interviews and the quantitative data:
* The interviews were conducted in 6 diferent municipalities (as said the sample was decided based on the SMS received – network analysis). The adjoining surveys were also quantified in graphs in order to triangulate the data from SMS and Smartphones: interviews give deeper insight, surveys give a quick overview of tendencies, very useful for (a.o.) interpretation of a series of interviews. Since the surveys are directly connected to the interviews it’s relatively easy to find deeper thoughts and deliberations on many issue. Some examples:
FAF: About what kind of security are you talking?
‘It’s the kind of security to see that women can move freely and not be harassed at the numerous road blocks that are all along the road. Sometimes it costs me up to 3000 Francs for the roadblock and then I haven’t arrived yet! I wanted to talk about these kinds of insecurity’

The stories about Domestic Violence:
In the interviews women talk about physical violence inside the house, where husbands, in-laws, but also their own brothers and fathers abuse them. It’s about cases of theft of money from women by their own husbands, but also ranges up to incest. Sometimes the wife gets beaten by the husband because everything she earned that day was confiscated at the roadblocks…

Economic insecurity
Problems, linked with economic insecurity are numerous in the interviews, e.g. in the Rusizi plains the conflict between pastoralists and agriculturalists is huge: women suffer in particular, because their fields are trampled and they cannot manage to make a living anymore.
* Quantitative Results: The SMS (Total Province of South Kivu): A total of 1511 (‘spontaneous’) SMS has been received between 1January 2014 and 31 December 2015. Some of these 1511 contained more than one incident (same SMS tells about a rape and a theft), so we used them twice; this results in a total of 1536 incidents taken into account for our quantitative analysis.
They were sent from all territories of South Kivu, 397 SMS were sent by men and 1098 SMS by women; and 16 no identified (anonymous).
The incidents –contained in the SMS- could be roughly classified  (according to the self-established indicators) as Physical insecurity in general

Physical insecurity (in general - except domestic) (753)
Domestic insecurity (247) 
Economic insecurity (205)
Political insecurity(121) and further: Legal insecurity and Cultural insecurity

The following graphs show the data as sent by women and men separately:

Women:                                                                   Men:

grafiek 6grafiek 7

Analysis of SMS as per (in)security:
Analysing the SMS we conclude that physical insecurity is most worrying (for women especially) in the province. As said we added domestic violence as a separate category because of the many incidents in this respect, and this is a good second, followed by economic insecurity. Women pointed out to physical plus grafiek 8domestic insecurity (70%) slightly more than men (60%). Of course, we must take into account that especially the men sending SMS to Femme au Fone are not representative for the population. All in all, 96 SMS alert to murdered women in the province over the 2 years.

Physical Insecurity

A large proportion of the SMS (light blue) speaks about (intra) family conflicts causing physical insecurity.
Theft with violence is also reported often, both inhouse as on the road (inside and outside villages or towns) due to the bad state of roads and road lights.
Several SMS speak specifically about rape of minors in Kavumu (girls above all). In many cases the perpetrators are men, representing some kind of authority.
Many SMS speak about insecurity (also physical) caused by molestations from authorities against women traders on different market places.

Also in this category there are numerous cases of abused girls working in other families, as well as ‘popular justice’ where mobs attack women who are accused of witchcraft.
And finally rape (both women and girls) is endemic in all provinces – not just by armed gangs, but by all kind of men, in the majority from the neighbourhood.


                                                                            Domestic violence
grafiek 5Incidents of domestic violence are the second category mostly mentioned. With domestic violence, we mean in-house violence perpetrated by men from the family (in the broad sense) against women and girls. Often it was simply named as general category in SMS, but also beating and abandonment of women are often mentioned (yellow and green). Also in several radio-broadcasts this aspect was important for women from all over the province, speaking about beatings, rape of girls, polygamy against the will of the wife, abandonment and theft from the wife by the husband.

Economic Insecurity: Apart from numerous SMS about economic hardship, hunger and starvation the harassment of female traders by authorities stands out in this category. Market women e.g. complain about ‘deplacement’. A large categorie of SMS speaks about the fact that women cannot read or write (‘alphabetisation’)

Legal insecurity: Several times women asked the editorial team of FAF through SMS: ‘A woman, whose husband abondoned her 10 years ago, what can she do to get a divorce?’ Especially among women there is an enormous lack of knowledge of as well of access to legal procedures and the judiciary. Most SMS talk of justice about arbitrary arrests, making young girls pregnant (‘grossesse précoce’) rape or maltreatments, divorce and even accusations of witchcraft.

The Smartphone Surveys give a time-bound angle to these findings (being repeated fortnightly): Thirty-one women and four men regularly sent their surveys through Smartphone from all over the territories. A total of 17.000 incidents were reported between December 2014 and January 2015. The indicators (roughly equal to the categorization of the SMS) permit to develop timelines for incidents, that is to say the occurrence of more or less incidents in a certain month at a grafiek 3certain place. We used these data mainly in addition to the SMS, interviews and recordings of broadcasts. They do not show any other reality: The overall picture is grim: a daily life for women characterized by economical insecurity, joblessness, up to hunger, theft on the roads, coming back from the market or even at home. Women are chronically overcharged with the burden of earning an income, either through working the fields or selling at the market, at the same time feeding and educating their children, more often than not harassed by a diversity of men, including their own husbands.


Discussion of quantitative results and qualitative additions: This research has above all been iterative: after the first quantitative conclusions from the SMS these were discussed in the editorial team, as well as with the partners. After the first year, we had completed these results and substantiated them with interviews and adjoining surveys. After the second year, the same happened with substantiation from the Smartphone Surveys as well: in that sense the Smartphone Interviews were part and parcel of this research over a lapse of time, another (specific) way of using Sensemapping.