chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
November 08, 2022

ABA ROLI Interviews Recipients of its Legal Scholarship Program in the DRC

Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) face significant economic, social, and cultural obstacles to obtaining higher education. As a result of these challenges and the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA ROLI) commitment to promoting women's participation in the legal profession, ABA ROLI implemented a legal scholarship and internship program for female students in the country. Since its inception in 2011, the program has helped dozens of Congolese women graduate and make a positive impact in their communities.

ABA ROLI reached out to Rita Rubayi Salama, a former legal scholarship recipient, to explore the impact the program had on her career. Ms. Salama graduated from the University of Goma after receiving the scholarship in her second year of school in 2013. Ms. Salama is now a lawyer at the North Kivu Bar, as well as an assistant Faculty of Law at the University of Goma. She also works as a consultant for ABA ROLI’s Atrocity Prevention Project in DRC. 

This scholarship is very interesting because beyond the academic and related expenses it offers to its recipients, it allows them to be in contact with the ABA staff. Personally, it has allowed me to expand my network of contacts at the university. Being selected has given me a confidence boost, which has opened several doors for me, including passing the bar and teaching at the university. As far as the bar, the scholarship supported me by paying for my chancellery fees.

Rita Rubayi Salama

Former Legal Scholarship Recipient

The interviewee asked Ms. Salama, "What is your goal for the future?" and she said, "I want and work to contribute to the resolution of problems in my community. As an advocate, I work with vulnerable people in general and with women who are victims of gender-based violence. As a teacher, I help students build their confidence. I am aware that self-confidence is a powerful weapon for personal and social development."

Ms. Salama stated she hopes to serve as an example to her younger sisters. 

Under this program, ABA ROLI recently helped set up the first  law library at the University of Goma.. In relation to the effort, Ms. Salama was asked, “As a teacher at the University of Goma and a former beneficiary of the LS program, how important is the law library?

She responded, "Victor Hugo said: "The mind that does not read thins like the body that does not eat". To offer a library to the University of Goma is to organize an eternal banquet for several generations of students. It is a generosity without measure that deserves to be saluted. Not only is it important, but it is also noble on the part of ABA."

A current legal scholarship recipient at the University of Goma, Deborah Bwami, was interviewed by ABA ROLI about her experiences and future goals. Ms. Bwami first learned of the scholarship program through an awareness day for young girls held by ABA ROLI on female leadership in academia, held at the University of Goma.

Ms. Bwami was asked, "As a beneficiary of the LS program, what are your objectives?"

She responded, "As an LS Scholar, I have a dual goal for the future. On the one hand, my personal goal is to obtain a master's degree in public international law with the possibility of continuing my studies abroad. The scholarship allowed me to multiply my efforts and today I have two distinctions. Also, I intend to start my career in the judicial profession after my law studies. This will allow me to intervene in societal problems and prosecute people who commit acts of abuse and violence against members of the community, especially against women and children.

On the other hand, my objective during the LS program is to sensitize women on their rights, in particular, to help young girls to be actors of social cohesion and peace promotion in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

On the topic of the new law library at the University of Goma, Ms. Bwami also added,

“Having a library within the faculty is helpful in that it brings the beneficiaries closer to legal knowledge and culture. The program had to resort to other libraries because of the lack of books at the university. Opening the library is crucial because not everyone learns in the auditorium [classroom]. Students need to read in order to deepen their knowledge of the subject. And we are convinced that this library will help to strengthen the reading culture among the students of the Law School.”

ABA ROLI continues to support women scholars in the DRC. In the future, ABA ROLI hopes to open similar Law Libraries at the Official University of Bukavu and the University of Kindu.

Support ABA ROLI's Legal Scholarship for Congolese Women

Learn more about ABA ROLI’s work across Africa.