The Women’s Peace Movement in Congo

Hugh Kinsella Cunningham, United Kingdom

Nearly 20 years on from a conflict that killed 5 million people and upended tenfold more lives, the Democratic Republic of Congo is once again sliding into chaos. As renewed conflict with the M23 rebels is catching the world’s attention, the vital contribution of women to peace remains invisible.

Despite escalating militarisation, and as reports of massacres by rebels come to light, some women are working to create dialogue between armed actors and communities. They track human rights violations, warn of impending violence, and plead with military leaders to stop attacks. In doing so, they take immense risks.

This project follows women peace makers across three provinces as they meet with army generals to demand peace, advocate for victims, and prevent youths from joining rebels. While media crews come in briefly to shoot scenes of war and displacement, myself and two reporting collaborators from Congo and France have spent many months documenting the slow work of peace, trying to capture the moments where women mobilise in extreme circumstances. The images are from several provinces, covering conflict and creating an in-depth portrait of the women’s peace movement as activists work to foster reconciliation and advocate for an end to impunity. 

The project reflects an ongoing commitment to pursuing ethical ways of depicting conflict and its victims by bringing a more hopeful approach to portrayals of war, where human resilience is at the centre of the work.

Discover more: Shortlist 2023