Thousands of people sought services
In recent years, reports of the use of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo by both armed and civilian entities were widespread. Particularly in the eastern part of the country, sexual violence is acknowledged as destabilizing communities and eroding the social structures that protect communities and individuals. In response, International Medical Corps implemented a prevention and protection program against sexual- and gender-based violence using behavior change communication in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo. This program, named “Bienvenue au Changement dans la Communaute,” or “Welcome Change in the Community,” funded with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), began in 2010 and has been completed.
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International Medical Corps’ Final Update on Empower a Girl in the Congo
“My name is M’mukinya, chief of Nandanga village. In my village when there is a case of rape brought to my attention, the man was taxed to pay me a goat and then the lady’s parents are encouraged to receive the dowry and arrange for marriage. I never thought that this practice was wrong until 2013 when the International Medical Corps team started to reach out to our community through their various activities, including raising awareness on sexual- and gender-based violence. It was then that I realized I was doing wrong against families and my entire community.”
Since 2010, International Medical Corps has been working to reduce the level of sexual violence in communities in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo, increasing both prevention and protection for individuals. To meet this goal, our teams focused on increasing community action to prevent sexual violence at all social levels and building new and positive behavior to ensure change is reinforced and sustained.
M’mukinya continues, “Through this program, they [International Medical Corps] organized many workshops, community dialogues and debates with community leaders that I personally attended. These activities helped me to understand that I was promoting sexual- and gender-based violence in my community. I decided to encourage my community to report any case of rape to the police because I do not have the ability to handle this problem. There is a law against sexual- and gender-based violence in our country and any perpetrator must be punished according to the law. I now commit myself to play the required role as a community leader who is protecting his community, and especially women and girls.”
We reached approximately 10.3 million people, like M’mukinya, with sexual- and gender-based violence behavior change communication interventions in their communities through approaches like workshops, dialogues and debates. Our activities spanned across Bunyakiri, Kalonge and Bukavu in South Kivu as well as in Chambucha, Walikale and Goma in North Kivu. Across each area, we identified different levels for behavior change communication including the individual, community and society with its various institutions, such as government structures to create and adopt positive change. For example, with individuals, our teams worked to identify prevention strategies to promote attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that ultimately prevent violence, such as life skills training. While the project reached millions, the need to address sexual- and gender-based violence remains.
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"I thank you for changing my life."
Behavior change in the community is key