How Subjection Harms Congolese Women: A Call to Consciousness -- By: Médine Moussounga Keener
PP 21:3 (Summer 2007) p. 25
How Subjection Harms Congolese Women:
A Call to Consciousness
MÉDINE MOUSSOUNGA KEENER received her Ph.D. from the University of Paris and is currently teaching a women’s history course at Eastern University in Pennsylvania. Having spent twenty months as a refugee in Congo-Brazzaville, she has firsthand experience concerning the plight of African women. She lives with her husband, Craig, and their son, David, in Philadelphia.
In many ways, women in the Republic of Congo are like others everywhere: they have emotional, physical, spiritual, and intellectual desires and ambitions, filled with hopes for a better life. Too often, however, their hopes go unfulfilled when their needs and desires are subjected to the selfish and sinful intent of others. This article is about the suffering of women in the Republic of Congo, my native country. I will begin by describing the many problems faced by Congolese women, relate these problems to issues faced by women everywhere, and conclude with recommendations for the future.
U.S. residents are more acquainted with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, former Zaire). But there are two Congos: the DRC and the Republic of Congo (ROC) or Congo-Brazzaville. Despite its 342,000 square kilometers, Congo-Brazzaville has only about three million inhabitants. Congo-Brazzaville has endured two recent civil wars; the latest, from 1997 to 2000, left most of the southern regions and Brazzaville, the capital, severely damaged.
Women and poverty
Congo-Brazzaville is now among the heavily indebted poor countries in the world. In the 1980s, it was considered a middle-income country, as it is one of sub-Saharan Africa’s leading oil producers. But, because of war, high public debt, and corruption among leaders, the country has become very poor. About 70 percent of the Congolese population lives in poverty, surviving on about $1.50 worth of food for a whole family per day.
The public infrastructure is very precarious. Power outages are frequent in major cities, and villages have almost no electricity. In many parts of the country, the water supply is not purified enough to protect people from diseases, and typhoid fever has become very common. Power outages likewise lead to a shortage of drinkable water. During the rainy season, roads deteriorate; ruts are made by trucks and cars passing through. Mosquitoes and bacteria breed in the big puddles.
Other problems connected to poverty are infant mortality, malnutrition, poor housing, unhygienic conditions, irregular salaries and pension arrears, and high unemployment. Poor schooling conditions make it hard for children to concentrate. Fifty to seventy-five children share one classroom in...
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