Woman is like the earth: even a fool sits down on her. (Luba proverb, DRC)

Elders earn their keep in a community garden, weeding and planting vegetables to supplement their fish diet.

The tasks and roles ascribed to women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo involve never-ending hard work, as seen in these photos taken recently by Lucy Hobgood-Brown in Equateur Province. As she reflects on these roles, Lucy notes that in cultures all over the globe, sex and gender issues have been expressed in proverbs. An academic friend who has taught at Université Protestante au Congo, an institution in Kinshasa with whom HandUp Congo works, has written a wonderful book called “Never Marry a Woman with Big Feet: Women in Proverbs from Around the World (Yale University Press, 2003). Dr. Mineke Schipper has analysed similarities, differences, and contradictions in cultural norms about gender expressed in proverbs from over 150 countries – including the DRC.

Girls scrub pots on the Momboyo River.

“I took some time today to look at the proverbs Mineke has collected on women’s work,” Lucy says. “Food preparation, washing and cleaning are necessary tasks that have to be carried out on a daily basis by women and girls in Congo and worldwide. I found lots of proverbs in Mineke’s book about gendered places and spaces. One that especially resonated with me, as I thought about the Congolese context, is an Estonian proverb: ‘The home is the wife’s world, the world is the man’s home.’”

Preparing a meal for visitors.

By Lucy Hobgood-Brown