This policy paper presents the findings from a research project on social accountability and gender in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), using the Tuungane project as its main case study. Tuungane (translated as ‘let’s unite’ in Kiswahili) was a large-scale community-driven reconstruction programme implemented by IRC and other partners in more than 1,900 conflict-affected communities in eastern DRC that ran between 2007 and 2016.
Through semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions conducted between 2017-2018 with various groups, including women leaders, Tuungane project participants, service providers, local chiefs and church leaders in eastern DRC, the study finds that efforts to achieve social accountability from below for women in DRC have encountered obstacles related to traditional gender norms. It is important to create an enabling environment for social gender accountability by disseminating and enacting existing gender laws and regulations and by promoting women’s inclusion in public institutions, particularly in ministries of health and education.
Furthermore, although positive gender change at the local level has been slow and sporadic, there is qualitative evidence of gender change at the individual level, where some women have gained influence and effectively used social accountability channels. Positive gender change is a long process that will continue to require sustained attentions and efforts.
The paper offers three key recommendations for policy and development actors working in this field of study:
The Congolese Government and other actors should do more work to educate people on social accountability and gender and translate regulations into practice.
We need to identify hybrid gender norms that promote social accountability and gender equality, and integrate them into all ministries.
Instead of focusing on the average treatment effect, we should pay more attention to changes that occur at the individual level for women involved in community-driven reconstruction programmes such as Tuungane.