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KINSHASA, the Democratic Republic of the Congo – A girl sat on a chair with her baby daughter on her lap. The child was born four days earlier at Libondi Health Centre, Bumbu Health Zone. As she told her story to the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström, she was surrounded by several other girls who were already mothers or about to become one.

“You are the future,” said Ms. Wallström to the girls. “We need to demand that your politicians take care of you and give you what you need. Every person has the same right to a good future, and this starts with the mother and the baby. You should all have the same possibilities as the new Swedish prince who was born yesterday.”

UNFPA Representative for the DRC, Diene Keita, with two young mothers at Libondi Health Centre, Kinshasa. © UNFPA / Josephine Lusamba

Women need to feel that they have a role to play in their own lives and this must be supported by men, Ms. Wallström said. She was on an official visit to the health centre to view in action a project funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation (SIDA) agency, entitled ‘Enhancing sexual and reproductive health of young people and adolescent girls and women of reproductive age particularly the most vulnerable in Kinshasa’.

Some local boys, as well as medical personnel, were dressed in t-shirts emblazoned with messages on family planning and sexual and reproductive health and rights. Also present were the Representative and Deputy Representative of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund and their Country Office team, plus Health Zone Chief Officer Dr. Benjamin Kilenge and a delegation from Sweden.

Medical equipment and supplies

Diene Keita and the Swedish delegation, represented by the Ambassador, Anika Ben David (far right) and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström (2nd from right), hand over medical kits to Dr. Benjamin Likenge, Medical Chief of Bumbu Health Zone and Alidor Tshibanda, Chief of Bumbu Municipality. Far back: Marcel Kabeya, UNFPA HIV/Youth Programme Officer. © UNFPA / Josephine Lusamba

UNFPA Representative Diene Keita handed a symbolic gift trophy to the Minister enscripted with the message Une femme ne mérite pas la violence (a woman does not deserve violence). She also handed over to the health centre medical kits that included medical equipment and essential medicines for delivery and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, and condoms.

UNFPA DRC has received more than US$10 million for the project, to be implemented from 2016 to 2019 in cooperation with other partners.  The Bumbu Health Zone is one of 35 health zones in the Kinshasa Province and one of 10 health zones included in the project. The health zone has a population of 390,000 inhabitants, including 82,000 women of reproductive age and 129,000 adolescents and young people.

Front row, left to right: Daniel Magnusson, First Secretary of the Swedish Embassy, in charge of Health Services; Dr. Théophile Nemuandjare, UNFPA DRC Family Planning Programme Analyst; Anika Ben David, Swedish Ambassador to the DRC; Ingebjørg Finnbakk, UNFPA Intern; Diene Keita, UNFPA Representative for the DRC; Margot Wallström, Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs; Alidor Tshibanda, Chief of Bumbu Municipality; Dr. Benjamin Likenge, Medical Chief of Bumbu Health Zone;and  Marie Louise, of the Catholic Church, responsible for Libondi Health Centre. Back row: Mireille Ikoli, UNFPA Gender Programme Officer; Marcel Kabeya, UNFPA HIV/Youth Programme Officer, and Dr. Eugène Kongnyuy, UNFPA Senior Maternal health Advisor. © UNFPA / Josephine Lusamba

UNFPA was grateful for SIDA’s contribution towards assuring that young mothers and their babies get the assistance and rights they deserve. This project will continue to save many lives, she said.

By Ingebjørg Finnbakk