Heavy Loads - Photography exhibition

large format prints

Portraits of a representative sample of women and girls who work as carriers in the Kivu provinces of eastern Congo. Thousands of women in eastern Congo work as “carrier women”. They are part of the landscape, for many they are invisible.

The exhibition was shown:

  1. -at the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Brussels, Belgium, in October 2010;

  2. -in the streets of Bukavu, capital of South Kivu, DR Congo, in the context of the third World March of Women in October 2010;

  3. -at Aliance Française in Bukavu in November 2010;

  4. -at the New York Photo Festival in the context of the collective exhibition “Human Kind” in December 2010;

  5. -in Dakar, Senegal, in the context of the World Social Forum in February 2011.

The exhibition won an award at the New york Photo Festival in May 2011 and will be shown in several cities in Belgium in November 2011.

Heavy Loads - Documentary film

in pre-production (trailer)

The two eastern Kivu provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo are labeled «the worst places in the world to be a woman». A series of conflicts ravages the region on and off since 1996, and violence against women never ceases. «Heavy loads» features the journey and struggle of «carrier women», who seem to carry on their back the extreme burden of DR Congo social, economic and political situation.

Multiplatform Campaign on Gender Equality (Democratic Republic of Congo)

War broke out in the east of the DR Congo as an indirect consequence of the rwandese genocide, and with it, violence against women. Women are on the frontline of the war in the Kivus. Over the last decade, rebel groups and military forces have been haunting eastern Congo, terrorising civilians and raping thousands of women each year.

This multiplatform project adresses the issue of violence against women (VAW) in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo with an integrated, global and gender-based approach taking into account the many facets of violence. Violations of women’s human rights are typically presented as an aspect of women’s inherent vulnerability, as if this attribute were a biological fact, and very little attention continues to be paid to VAW in the political, social and economic spheres.

We decided to take the situation of the carrier women as a starting point for a deeper understanding of the complex nature of VAW in the region and in the world.

The carrier women live in rural areas and transport heavy loads (up to 200 kg) of agricultural products on their back with a rope tossed around their head as reals beasts of burden. They are all ages and many work along with their little daughters. Most of the women started these heavy job as a consequence of the war’s losses and disasters. For social and cultural reasons, men do not carry loads on their backs. Many husbands are unemployed. The whole economy of the region lies on the women’s shoulders, as unique carrier of goods for the local markets.

The Campaign started with the photography exhibitions in October 2010 and will be followed by radio spots, panels, workshops, a documentary film and a website. The website will feature a web-documentary, video reports and articles on issues of violence against women in DRC and in the world, reports on the WMW, and a space dedicated to interactivity and user-generated content. Users will be able to symbolically lift the women's loads through various actions.