Breaking Congo’s Glass Ceiling

Tom O'Bryan_smallThe following is an excerpt from “Breaking Congo’s Glass Ceiling: Gender Politics in the DRC” published in a recent edition of Foreign Affairs by HKS student Tom O’Bryan. The Ash Center is supporting O’Bryan’s work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he is working with a group of partner nonprofits to launch the Congo Democracy Project: a series of interactive maps of the DRC, focused on elections and democratic governance in the country.

This article profiles the women leading the fight for gender equality in Congolese politics as the country approaches critical national elections later this year. From the streets to the Constitutional Court, DRC’s activists, advocates, and candidates are making important progress in the face of growing resistance.


By Tom O’Bryan

Breaking Congo’s Glass Ceiling: Gender Politics in the DRC

February 9, 2016


On a sweltering Sunday afternoon in Goma, one of the largest and most troubled cities in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chantal Faida emerged beaming from the tin-roofed office of the National Elections Commission. It was May 2015, and she had just registered as a candidate in Congo’s upcoming provincial elections to contest the seat of Goma, the capital of North Kivu.

“Today we write the first chapter of a new beginning in our province’s history,” Faida said, standing in front of a pool of reporters. “It would be my great honor to represent you, to be your voice for hope.” Cameras flashed and reporters jostled for a sound bite, pushing their microphones impossibly close to her mouth as she spoke…

At just 27, Faida has lived through natural disasters and wars. She survived the First and Second Congo Wars, which began in the late 1990s and stretched into the early 2000s. In 2002, when she was only 13, Mt. Nyiragongo erupted and sent lava flowing into Goma, where it destroyed more than 15 percent of the city. Still, Faida graduated from high school with top grades and went on to study economics at one of Goma’s best colleges. She was determined to build a more prosperous and stable future for her community…


Read the complete article on Foreign Affairswebsite.

Tom O’Bryan is a UK Kennedy Scholar and a Masters of Public Policy candidate at HKS. Before he came to Harvard, he worked on conflict resolution, democratic governance, and human rights issues in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Western Sahara, and Tunisia.

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