08 March 2017
Serena Ricci
International Women’s Day gives us the chance to recognize the vital contributions women make every day and mark the challenges we still have to meet to achieve gender equality. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), UN Volunteers assigned to the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO) and UN agencies are supporting local projects aimed at furthering gender equality. They are involving women in political and economic decision making processes, monitoring human rights violation or preventing and responding to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV).
UN Volunteer Serena testing a biogaz installation in the framework of the ‘safe access to fuel and energy’ approach to reduce environmental impact of cooking needs through the production and use of durable clean energy. Credits UNH
UN Volunteer Serena Ricci testing a biogaz installation in the framework of the ‘safe access to fuel and energy’ approach to reduce environmental impact of cooking needs through the production and use of durable clean energy. Credits UNHCR, 2017

Based in Goma, a city in the eastern DRC, Italian international UN Volunteer Serena Ricci is assigned to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as an associate protection officer. Her role is to ensure the protection of refugees, forcibly displaced women, girls, men and boys and people with specific needs.

“Sexual and Gender-Based Violence is an acute problem in the DRC and often considered as taboo. With the support of local partners, one of my roles is to sensitize local communities, traditional leaders, refugees, members of the Congolese army and the police on SGBV related issues and capacitated to work as change agent in their respective communities to achieve the ultimate outcome of prevent SGBV”, Serena said.

One of my roles is to sensitize local communities, traditional leaders, refugees, members of the Congolese army and the police on SGBV related issues and capacitated to work as change agent in their respective communities to achieve the ultimate outcome of prevent SGBV

“I am as well supervising a pilot project empowering 100 displaced women via the production and use of briquettes, a low-emission cooking fuel made from dried biodegradable materials for income generating activities such as bakery”, she added. Serena is a strong advocate and integrates a gender perspective into the activities she is conducting. What has been her most memorable moment to date? When she saw traditional leaders stepping up against forced and early marriage within their communities in Shabunda, a remote area in South Kivu.

“The sensitization session we organized made them aware that some practices commonly accepted in their community amounted to some forms of SGBV. They even decided to volunteer and record advocacy messages against early marriage on the radio which was later broadcasted in the region”, Serena said.

Serena is grateful to contribute her time and skills through volunteering for UNHCR and seeing that her assignment has a real impact on the different communities living in the region
 

Sub-Saharan Africa
Sustainable Development Goal: