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Raising awareness on Violence Against Women through a life-size portraits exhibition of "carrier women" during the Wolrd March of Women. Read more

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This project was successfully funded on October 10, 2010.

Raising awareness on Violence Against Women through a life-size portraits exhibition of "carrier women" during the Wolrd March of Women.

About this project


«Heavy Loads»

Outdoor Photography Exhibition Launches a Multi-Platform Campaign to stop Violence against Women in Eastern Congo

by "Free Advice" and "L'Observatoire de la Parité"
Photographs by François Vaxelaire and Eliane Beeson

Three months ago we went to Bukavu, capital of South Kivu, province of eastern Congo to produce a photography report on the "carrier women" for "L'Observatoire de la Parité", a local NGO calling for gender parity at all levels.

We met many carrier women along the roads and in the markets around Bukavu. We produced a hundred portraits made in two warehouses transformed in makeshift photography studios. The result was so strong and the carrier women so involved that we felt we should show it locally. That's when we heard that the third World March of Women closing event was to take place in Bukavu from October 14th to october 18th.

Thousands of women in eastern Congo work as “carrier women”. They are part of the landscape, for many they are invisible. For us they appeared as a symbol: they are bended and seem to carry on their back the burden of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo social, economic and political situation.

The two eastern Kivu provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo are labeled «the worst places in the world to be a woman». War broke out in the east of the DR Congo as an indirect consequence of the rwandese genocide, and with it, violence against women. Over the last decade, rebel groups and military forces have been haunting eastern Congo, terrorising civilians and raping thousands of women each year. As a consequence of the war’s losses and disasters, and willing to face the adverse economic conditions, many women started carrying extremely heavy loads on their back with a rope tossed around their head as reals beasts of burden.

Women are on the frontline of the war in Kivus. In the context of continuing instability and massive rape, the situation of the carrier women is probably one of the most extreme examples in the world of women’s vulnerability. They are at high risk and primary targets for gender-based violence but also suffer the consequences from the extremely heavy loads they carry.

The carrier women, “les femmes transporteuses” as they are called in North and South Kivus are all ages and many work along with their little daughters. Two or three times a week, they carry agricultural products from the fields to the local markets, walking several kilometers with extremely heavy loads on their backs.

While other women with even lower socio-economic status work as carriers in the markets. They offer their services to transport bags of flour (up to 200 kg) or other goods from the trucks standing along the roads to the storage rooms inside of the markets.

In this case, each women carry in her back in average 1-2 tons of goods a day and earn less than one dollar, barely enough to buy a daily dosis of flour. For social and cultural reasons, men do not carry loads on their backs. Many husbands are unemployed or passed away during the conflict. The whole economy of the region lies on the women’s shoulders, as unique carrier of goods for the local markets.

From October 14th - 18th, the city of Bukavu will be filled with thousands of women's rights activists from DRC and from around the world demonstrating solidarity with the Congolese women, promoting women’s human rights, and fighting war and poverty. Powerful life-size portraits of carrier women that convey a strong illustration of gender-based violence will be hanged all along the road the activists will march. This strong visual event will be supported by a wide variety of activities (radio spots, roundtables and workshops on gender-role steretypes) that are scheduled by our local partner in Bukavu.

On the 10th of October 2010, the banners will be on preview in Belgium (DR Congo former colonizer) as the international women’s organization are marching in the capital of Belgium just before flying to Bukavu.

The Campaign starts with the photography exhibitions and will be followed by radio spots, panels, workshops, a documentary film and a website. The website will feature a web-documentary, video reports and articles on issues of violence against women in DRC and in the world, reports on the WMW, and a space dedicated to interactivity and user-generated content. Users will be able to symbolically lift the women's loads through various actions. After the event in Brussels and Bukavu, we hope to make the exhibition travel through Congo's main cities and, why not, show it in NYC.

Technically we are going to take advantage of the existing billboard system to hang the portraits. The MONUSCO Gender Unit (United Nations Organization Stabilization MIssion in the DRCongo) is willing to give a small financial support to the project, but we still need funds to print the banners, to ship them to Bukavu and to pay our flight to DR Congo!

We really want to make it happen, we believe it's a great gift for the women and a sensitive way to highlight this complexe situation. We greatly appreciate you support, you can make it happen!

Eliane & Francois


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Funding period

- (24 days)