On Tuesday, March 1, Yvette Mulongo, a healthcare advocate from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was honored with a grant from the Americans for United Nations Population Fund at a luncheon at the Grand Hotel in downtown Minneapolis. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) provides healthcare for women and promotes the rights of women in over 150 countries worldwide. Each year Americans for UNFPA hosts educational and public awareness events.
The Congo is located in central Africa. It has been a war zone since 1998 despite two peace accords, with more than three million people killed and more than a million displaced. The most affected areas still are the northeastern provinces, where young girls 10 to 17 are the most vulnerable. The prevalence of rape in the Congo has been described as the worst in the world. A U.N. report details the widespread use of rape as a weapon of war, and the increasing prevalence of rape by rebel and government soldiers, and by civilians.
UNFPA aids survivors of sexual violence with medical care, economic and social rehabilitation, and legal assistance.
Ms. Mulongo has worked for 16 years for the rights of women and girls. She is program manager for Abott Fund for Maternal and Child Health Programs and the Director of Family Planning for SANRU, a rural health program in the Congo.
“If we can help mothers to space the birth of their babies, their children will not be malnourished and can live.” said Mulongo. With UNFPA support, she has developed training materials on family planning. UNFPA provides contraceptives to help women plan and space their families.
“The barriers to health and dignity are many. The girls do not have access to education. They cannot read nor write.” said Mulongo. “Some marry as young as 12 or 14. They are considered property of their husbands. There has been progress. We are seeing men telling other men that women have rights and value.”
“Right now in Washington D.C., the House of Representatives is voting to de-fund UNFPA,” said Mindy Rechelbecher, a board member of Americans for UNFPA. “People need to contact their senators to help keep our program. It has been serving women globally for 40 years.”
“We have hope when women from Minnesota support us.” said Mulongo. “As we share our stories, I am wanting help with a comprehensive strategies to protect life in the Congo. I am eager to hear what is happening with teenage girls in United States.”
After receiving her $5000 grant in Minneapolis, Mulongo travels to San Francisco on March 3 and Seattle on March 8, International Women’s Day, to speak about the fundamental importance of education and empowering women globally.