UN officials have called DRC the epicenter of rape as a weapon of war, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited rape victims in eastern Congo in 2009 in an effort to draw more attention to one of Africa’s most disturbing conflicts.
In the DRC, International Medical Corps takes a holistic approach to addressing violence against women, so that survivors have access to medical, psychosocial, legal, economic, and social resources needed to recover as well as work with communities to prevent and reduce violence against women. We offer case management and emotional support services for survivors of GBV. We also provide legal services, livelihoods training and economic opportunities to help survivors recover and become self-reliant.
Over the last 2 years in North and South Kivu, International Medical Corps has:
Justice for victims of violence is elusive in DRC. Perpetrators of violence walk free within days—if ever caught in the first place. What’s more, social stigma prevents women from seeking treatment or reporting attacks.
But, International Medical Corps is working to change attitudes towards women.
“Community leaders in Bukavu were called for training on women in leadership. When I heard, I was not interested in attending, but the M’ze (chief) sent me to represent him. For me, it was a women’s issue. Though I have daughters, I have never thought I have something to discuss with them. And these young women came (project facilitator) and talked about how girls can face problems outside of home, in schools, in the street and how they need our support as family heads, as parents. On the second day, we discussed the benefit of including girls at all level of decisions.
I felt impressed and touched by the message. I have four daughters whom I had never find necessary to discuss something different from my food to be served. From this training venue, I think I will start to start.‘’
-60-year-old man , Bukavu International Medical Corps’ efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo focus not only on women, but also on their families. The participant quoted above took part in a training session on the inclusion of women in decision-making for community and religious leaders. The workshop included both men and women, and discussed topics from the principles of community mobilization to the legal instruments that protect women and advocacy. These topics are key to educating communities about women’s rights.
Workshops like the one described above bring together community leaders and empower them to create change within their own families. By educating community elders – and their sons, daughters, wives and husbands, International Medical Corps helps leaders set an example for the entire community, changing the way women and girls are treated.
The teenagers of Bunyakiri High School in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have lived their entire lives in a region at the center of one of Africa's most brutal and violent conflicts. Women and girls there also carry enormous burdens in tending farms, carrying water and firewood, and caring for families. In this environment of gender inequality, women and girls are at high risk of multiple forms of gender-based violence (GBV), including rape, domestic violence, and forced marriage.
Through a unique collaboration with the U.S. Agency for International Development, International Medical Corps is educating and sensitizing young people about women's rights, sexual health and the consequences of GBV. It is especially important to reach young people who are still developing their ideas about gender and relationships, which tend to be more ingrained in adults. One of the ways in which we engage young people to promote peace and change attitudes and behaviors about violence is through soccer.
By bringing together groups of girls from different villages across South Kivu province to play soccer, International Medical Corps' GBV experts can reach a wide audience to educate young people about their rights under the law, such as their protection from forced marriage under the age of 18, as well as information about where survivors of sexual violence can find help our health centers. The games also build connections between communities that have been kept isolated in recent years because of violence and insecurity. As a result, young people are reached directly and also made champions within their families and communities for a more promising and peaceful future.
One female 10th grade Bunyakiri High School student told us, “Because of the [girls' soccer] matches we play, I have met many new friends from areas outside my village. I say to my family that I am the example of gender equality because I go to play matches all over Bunyakiri."
International Medical Corps has worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 1999, providing more than one million people with health care, health sector training, gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and treatment, nutrition, food security, and water and sanitation services. Our complementary USAID-funded Care, Access, Safety & Empowerment and Behavior Change Communications projects in DRC take a comprehensive approach to addressing the needs of GBV survivors, while also preventing future cases by changing community attitudes around gender and violence.
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Resource Development Officer