Children fighting for Children – Banding Together in War-Torn Congo
In the DR of Congo children have created an organization known as the Children’s Parliament, to defend and teach human rights. The Children’s Parliament is an action group against the rampant rape, murder and assaults that occur especially in the eastern side of the country.
With the peace deal in 2003, and with a transitional government since, military factions, police, and other officials have all fallen into corruption.
“the man’s sons also took advantage of the girl. After that, I couldn’t stay silent.”
Junior Museke and Junior Alimoasi both started the parliament when they were 11, at the encouragement of some NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) in the area.
Museke was a resident of the City of Goma, at the foot of Volcano Nyiragongo. When it erupted in 2002, total chaos ensued. Families were torn apart and lives lost. In the aftermath, Museke was leaving in a camp for unattended children.
During his time there, a 12 year old girl came to Goma to live with her Aunt. Her aunt was a successful businesswoman, and traveled a lot, so her husband “took it upon the little girl to perform wifely duties” as Museke explained it. “and the man’s sons also took advantage of the girl. After that, I couldn’t stay silent.”
Now Museke teaches in classrooms, about basic human rights, what constitute rape, and what to do if a teacher or authority figure is acting inappropriate.
“children are exposed to many risks, even sexual molestation in schools, so we teach children how to avoid teacher’s traps”
The Children’s Parliament doesn’t just stop at classroom education.
“If you’re in danger, we will work with the school. Children know they have someone on their side.”
The resources provide for any child, whether at school or at home.
“There was a situation at my school last year, a teacher asked a student to sleep with him, but the girl and seen our workshops, and went to the head of the school.” says Alimoasi, who also got involved at age 11. “We called the head of the school, gathered a disciplinary council, and fired the teacher.”
The support network they have created is nothing short of amazing. A newsletter goes out, and a radio show airs for half an hour every Friday. They work with police and military, hoping as soldiers are redeployed, the message will go with them.
A young girl reaches out the group, she’s 15, both her and her son have malaria, and she has no money. She says her boyfriend is a solider, and has left. Alimoasi, now 16, works with the young girl to find her boyfriend’s family, and arranges for her and the baby to be taken care of. Its not an easy process, they agree to take just the baby, but the young mother refuses to be separated from her baby. The missing boyfriend must also be brought up on rape charges, so Alimoasi works with the Child Protection Division of the police to help apprehend the man.
One of their members, Jadot, was murdered while working for the Children’s Parliament in a town near Goma. The realities are grim, and there is no pay involved, all the children involved genuinely want to see change.
“We continue to do this work, even though we are scared. We will continue, because it is our mission.”