Focus Droits et Accès

Improve the Health and Menstrual Hygiene of Indigenous Women and Girls in the Rural Areas of North Kivu, DRC

FDA's Outreach to Women

USD 20.000 grant
to strengthen education, 
sensitize the community about menstruation, 
and provide the materials and dignity kits 
needed to manage menstrual health 
and hygiene with dignity

On this page, we aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of the significance of this grant. Here, you can learn about the community served by this project and the particular challenges they face. We also offer insights into Focus Droits et Accès, the Indigenous-led organization we proudly support, and a thorough account of the project they are undertaking. We invite you to delve further, consider becoming an ally, and discover ways to offer direct support to Focus Droits et Accès, all detailed on this page. 

The Community

Indigenous Peoples in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The government and civil society organizations in the DRC acknowledge and support the concept of Indigenous peoples, referring to four main groups: the Mbuti, the Baka, the Batwa of the west, and the Batwa of the east. These groups reject the derogatory and discriminatory term pygmies. The exact number of Indigenous peoples in the DRC is uncertain, with estimates ranging from 600,000 to 2,000,000 individuals.

Credit: Focus Droits et Accès

Indigenous peoples in the DRC live nomadic or semi-nomadic lives, with their way of life intimately tied to the forest and its resources. They rely on hunting, gathering, collecting and fishing, and treat illnesses with traditional medicine derived from the forest. The forest represents the core of their culture and living environment. However, the historical and ongoing expropriation of Indigenous lands for conservation and logging has forced many to abandon their traditional way of life and become landless living in extreme poverty. Others have been forced into bonded labor relationships with Bantu masters. In particular, land access problems are severe in the east of the DRC, with a high population density. In Orientale, Equateur, and Bandundu provinces, industrial operations are encroaching on Indigenous peoples' living spaces. The creation of protected areas has also become problematic, given the strict policing of conservation areas established in all national parks.


New legislation to protect the rights of the Indigenous Pygmy Peoples in the DRC - Story | IUCN

In 2022, the Democratic Republic of the Congo recognized the customary rights of its Indigenous population by adopting a new law on Indigenous Pygmy Peoples. 

Indigenous peoples in the DRC are in a considerably worse situation than the national population, facing inferior living conditions and poor access to basic services like health and education. Discrimination against them takes various forms, including racial stereotyping, social exclusion, and systematic violations of their rights. Without proper protection, their living spaces will continue to shrink, depriving them of the resources they depend on for survival and causing their culture and traditional knowledge to disappear.

Although there are no laws or policies in the DRC explicitly promoting or protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples, recent legal texts have influenced advocacy efforts. These include the 2002 Forest Code, the 2006 Constitution, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to which the DRC is a signatory.


The Indigenous World 2022: Republic of the Congo - IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs

The Congolese population stood at 5.5 million in 2020 with an annual growth rate of 3.68%. The population comprises two distinct groups: the Pygmies and the Bantu.

Indigenous Women and Girls in the DRC

Indigenous women in Congo face various challenges, including discrimination, stereotypes, and a lack of access to fundamental human rights, such as education and healthcare. Indigenous women also face difficulties owning land and being involved in income-generating activities, limiting their economic empowerment. Additionally, Indigenous girls have lower school enrollment and retention rates, and Indigenous women have restricted access to healthcare services, resulting in high rates of home births and early sexual encounters.

Credit: Focus Droits et Accès

In 2021, United Nations agencies launched a program called the Joint SDG Fund in the southern department of Lékoumou to improve the quality of life of Indigenous populations. The program, implemented by the Ministry of Social Affairs, the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization, and UNICEF, seeks to improve Indigenous women's access to healthcare services and remove barriers to land ownership and income-generating activities. One notable initiative is a project implemented jointly by various groups aimed at improving the conditions of Indigenous women and girls in the village of Tsiaki in the Bouenza department. The project includes awareness-raising regarding rights and protection, literacy classes, and soap-making and marketing training for 100 Indigenous women.

Credit: Focus Droits et Accès

 While these initiatives are commendable, the protection of Indigenous women's rights still faces significant challenges, including stereotypes and discrimination, low rates of prosecution and conviction, and inadequate mechanisms to identify victims of contemporary forms of slavery.

The empowerment and protection of Indigenous women's rights remain critical issues.

The Problem

Lack of Access, Deficient Care Services, Inadequate Sanitation Facilities and Cultural Taboos

Indigenous women and girls in rural areas of the DRC face significant challenges in managing their menstrual health. Lack of access to sanitary products, inadequate sanitation facilities, and cultural taboos surrounding menstruation all contribute to poor menstrual hygiene, leading to health issues and social exclusion. Many Indigenous women and girls in rural areas cannot afford or access commercially available menstrual products such as pads or tampons. Instead, they rely on unhygienic and uncomfortable alternatives such as rags, leaves, or even mud, which can lead to infections and other health problems.

Credit: Focus Droits et Accès

In addition, many rural communities lack adequate sanitation facilities, including private toilets and clean water sources. This makes it difficult for Indigenous women and girls to manage their menstrual hygiene in a clean and safe manner, further contributing to the risk of health issues.

Cultural taboos surrounding menstruation also play a role in poor menstrual hygiene practices. Some Indigenous communities see menstruation as shameful, and women and girls are expected to hide their periods from others. This can result in girls missing school or work, further limiting their opportunities and perpetuating gender inequalities.

The consequences of poor menstrual hygiene can be severe, including infections, reproductive health problems, and social exclusion. In addition, girls who miss school due to menstruation are more likely to fall behind in their studies and may drop out altogether, limiting their future prospects.

The Grantee

Focus Droits et Accès 

FDA is a Congolese Indigenous women's non-profit working to promote the rights of women, children, and marginalized groups. Founded in Goma in 2010 to promote the social and economic development of the poor and disadvantaged populations, FDA wants to ensure every human being has access to their fundamental human rights.

Credit: Focus Droits et Accès

They focus on the Congolese Indigenous peoples' economic, social, and cultural rights because their access to public services such as water, health, and public safety are often not perceived as rights but as favors granted by the state.

Both urban and rural populations, illiterate and educated, struggle daily to survive amidst serious violations such as killings, burglaries, massacres, forced displacement, sexual violence, and abductions. FDA believes that economic, social, and cultural rights are as crucial as the right to life or physical integrity.


Focus Droits et Accès

Organisation humanitaire et de promotion des Droits des femmes et des groupes sociaux vulnérables.
Credit: Focus Droits et Accès

The Project 

Improve the Health and Menstrual Hygiene of Indigenous Women and Girls in the Rural Areas of North Kivu, DRC

Through our grant and funding from the International Indigenous Women's Forum, FDA will be able to Improve the Health and Menstrual Hygiene of Indigenous Women and Girls in the Rural Areas of North Kivu. 

They will strengthen education, sensitize community members about menstruation, and provide the materials and dignity kits needed to manage menstrual health and hygiene with dignity. 

To fulfill these goals, FDA will develop the following activities:

1. Conduct ten information, education, and communication sessions for 300 Indigenous women and girls in two rural areas to educate them on menstrual health and hygiene management.

2. Organize five community forums in two localities to raise awareness, mobilize community members, and encourage their commitment to protecting young Indigenous women and girls against menstrual stigma. Also, improve the enabling conditions for menstrual management for these women and girls.

3. Provide training and capacity building to Indigenous women and girls on how to design and create reusable and sustainable sanitary pads.

4. Distribute dignity kits and sanitary pads, and reinforce the education and information provided to the 300 Indigenous women and girls to promote good menstrual health and hygiene management.

Watch our interview with Program Office Miriam Bahaya about Focus Droits' work, the situation of Indigenous women and girls in the D.R.C., and how this project will improve Menstrual Health in Nord-Kivu:

Focus Droits et Accès is doing meaningful work that will change many lives and have a generational impact. Supporting them is taking part in the advancement of Human Rights. They welcome your generosity and need your direct support. 


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