Deep-rooted change within individuals and communities is needed to address the needs of women and their families and International Medical Corps is initiating that change in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The following story told by a husband and father is just one example of our success.
“My name is Rashidi. I was in charge of collecting taxes in the mining zones in Walikale. We used to make a lot of money which was often used up in buying alcohol and engaging in promiscuous behavior. I did not have the concept of saving. I lived for the day because I knew that I would get more money the next day. I never cared about my wife or my children.
“When the job at the mines ended, I was left with nothing. I heard people talk about men’s discussion groups and decided to join because I was curious to know what they were about. During the discussions about negative masculinity, I realized that I was my biggest enemy. I decided to stop drinking alcohol and concentrate on improving the status of my family. I started helping my wife on the farm and involving her in making decisions.
“In August 2014, I got a part-time job conducting an assessment for an NGO. I was paid $30 and for the first time in my life, I shared the money with my wife. She asked for $20 to start a business of selling fish and I gave her the money. Her business has grown and from the profits, we decided to buy two goats. I have been able to start my own business as well and together, we plan to buy a piece of land and build a house. In one year, we have been able to acquire property from a start of $20, something that I was unable to do when I illegally earned $3,000 per month from the mines.
“I thank International Medical Corps for having started this program and I would like them to reach more people with this work.”
With the generous support of GlobalGiving and other donors, International Medical Corps is able to initiate programs such as these and help people like Rashidi change his life in constructive ways. Not only does this work positively impact individuals and their families but it also leads to lasting change for entire communities.
Behavior change communication is a major focus of International Medical Corps’ work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Deep-rooted community change is still required to prevent, address and overcome gender-based violence and International Medical Corps is making progress towards initiating that change. The following is just one example of these efforts.
“My name is Claude , I am internally displaced and living in Mugunga camp since November 2012. I’ve been married to my wife for 17 years and we have four children. I used to beat my wife for any reason, like when she refused to have sex with me or cooked dinner too late. I thought it was the main way to enforce my power as head of the family. I did not care about how my wife feels and never took her view into consideration. I did not know that I was a perpetrator of sexual- and gender-based violence (SGBV) until I joined a Men’s Discussion Group initiated by the Behavior Change Communication project in April 2014 in our camp. I realized that I was perpetrating SGBV gradually. I participated in discussions. During the whole process of 16 weeks, I learned the meaning of violence against women, who is a real man, the consequence of violence on me, my family and the community. I also learned how the positive behavior of a man benefits himself, his wife, his children and the whole community. This knowledge motivated me to change my behavior toward my wife and my children, and I started promoting dialogue in my home and seeing its benefits. I understood how my wife was suffering deeply because of my behavior. After 16 weeks I decided to maintain my new behavior, given the harmony in our household, the happiness of my wife and my children. I keep managing my anger and using dialogue as a way of avoiding any kind of violence against my family. I also keep a positive attitude toward the women in our camp. This really helps me because my wife is now running her own business and makes her own decisions with her money. My children are allowed to remain in school since I am now willing to pay their school fees. In March 2015, we were asked to elect a Chairman for Mugunga camp community. I was surprised to be encouraged by my neighborhood and many people in the camp to stand as a candidate. I accepted and was elected as Chairman. This became possible because of my new attitude towards my family, and the entire community has noticed. My wife is sometimes asked by her friends to share the secret that contributed to my behavior change. I really thank International Medical Corps for this approach that brought peace in my household and helped me to become who I am today. I now understand the benefit of behavior change.”
With the generous support of GlobalGiving and other donors, International Medical Corps is able to institute such initiatives and will be able to continue to implement programs that help people like Claude and his family. Not only does this work positively impact individuals and their families but it also leads to lasting change for entire communities.
Behavior change communication is a major focus of International Medical Corps’ work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Deep rooted community change is still required to prevent, address and overcome gender-based violence and International Medical Corps is making progress towards initiating that change. The following is just one example of our efforts.
“My name is Justin. I have been the principal at the Bitobolo Institute since 2006. Institute of Bitobolo is a religious affiliated school. According to the policies, it is strictly forbidden to accept a girl who is pregnant or has a child. This has been the practice since its inception in 1991. I have witnessed change ever since International Medical Corps established a school club and started sensitizing teachers and students on Gender Based Violence (GBV). During the school year 2013-2014, the project helped the school management to revise the code of conduct for teachers to strengthen prevention and protection of students against sexual violence. As the first line authority of the establishment, I strived to popularize this new code of conduct among teachers to ensure strict compliance.
I was concerned about the issue of teenage mothers and the fact that the school was discriminating against them. For some, the pregnancy was a result of rape or early/forced marriage. This was GBV and we were denying them opportunities just because they were girls. I made the decision to mobilize other colleagues to advocate with the school in Bukavu which is responsible for policy formulation and review to change the policy that was discriminating against teenage mothers. We were lucky that the school in Bukavu had also benefitted from similar activities and had been inaugurated as a gender friendly school. We got verbal approval to start enrolling teenage mothers in the school. We are currently organizing meetings with the student-parent committees to encourage girls to enroll in school. Since then four teenage mothers who had been refused to continue school in 2011 are newly enrolled and are attending classes. The enrollment of girls in the school has increased from 17% of the 150 students and now we have 80 girls (53%) enrolled in the school. I have also seen a reduction in the cases of GBV in the school. During the 2011-2012 school year, we had five cases of sexual assault by teachers and classmates. However, after the establishment of the code of conduct, I have not heard any cases reported.
I am very happy for these improvements and I recommend that International Medical Corps intensifies sensitization and involve more schools in the prevention of GBV for the well-being of our community and in particular for the well-being of the girl child.”
With the generous support of GlobalGiving and other donors International Medical Corps is able to institute such initiatives and will be able to continue to implement programs that follow through on Justin, and many others’ desire for change in their community.
Vocational training has been a key component of International Medical Corps’ Care, Access, Safety and Empowerment (CASE) program in Eastern Congo. The goal of the program is: “to protect vulnerable populations from physical violence and abuse to assist the Congo in its stabilization and gradual transition from a post conflict country to a developing one.” The program aims to increase access to and quality of medical, psychosocial, social, legal and economic services for survivors of sexual and gender based violence, and build community capacities to reduce vulnerability to future acts of violence and was designed to respond to widespread sexual violence in Eastern Congo which was greatly attributed to civil strife and presence of numerous armed groups who use rape as a weapon of war. As a critical component of this response, vocational training empowers women and reinforces their place in society. This is a crucial step in giving the women of Eastern Congo their dignity back and to begin empowering future generations of women in the country for years to come.
The following is just one success story from a participant at a vocational training center supported by International Medical Corps.
“My husband could never let me make a decision or even state my opinion regarding the management of the home. This is especially on decisions regarding financial management of the household. Since he is the only one who earned money, he could do whatever he wanted with it. He decided when me and the children could and could not eat and what we ate. Sometimes he would punish me by not buying food. This caused a lot of suffering to the children.
I attended a training of several activities that were organized by International Medical Corps at the community center. The people in charge of the community centers talked about vocation training but I never had any interest. I had a belief that women should only concentrate on making baskets and knitting children’s cloths. Skills such as tailoring, masonry and carpentry seemed out of reach for me. I continued to participate in the “women’s” activities but I was not happy. I was referred to the Rambo vocational center which had started operating with assistance from International Medical Corps after it was looted by armed groups almost 3 years ago. I saw other women enrolled in tailoring who were making very beautiful dresses. I took a keen interest and started to learn. After eight months, I graduated and started making dresses for my neighbors. It took 12 months for me to save enough money to buy a machine with which I was able to start a tailoring shop at my house. I now have a small business and with the dress making, I earn at least 4500 Congolese Francs ($5) each day. I apply the business principles I learned during the business skills and entrepreneurship training I got from International Medical Corps of innovation and ensuring customer satisfaction by delivering what the customer wants on time. This has helped me build confidence with my clients in the community.
I am now able to make sure my children have food to eat, clothes to wear and that they can access health care when they are sick. I am happy that the vocational center is functional again and that it will continue to help other women who are in a similar situation as I was in.”
With the generous support of Global Giving and other donors International Medical Corps is able to empower women in the Congo, restoring their dignity and place in their communities.
International Medical Corps’ Women in Leadership (WiLead) project began in August 2012 with the goal of strengthening existing and creating new women leadership roles and promoting an environment that supports and encourages future women leaders in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This project was designed to train women in organizational development and management skills, empowering them to become more effective leaders; increase the understanding of women’s leadership roles in their communities; and teach communities the importance and benefits of establishing women-friendly leadership structures.
The WiLead project partnered with 434 religious, traditional and political leaders (159 of which were women) and challenged them through training sessions, workshops, discussions and debates, to change traditional laws that discriminate against women and girls and create space for women’s participation in leadership positions. After the program, and with the support of local women’s associations, women experienced tangible gains in their communities: 21 women were nominated in the council of elders in Kalonge; religious leaders offered a piece of land for women to construct a small hut for meetings instead of meeting at the river or farms where they are at risk of attack by armed groups; one women was nominated to the tribal council in both Bukavu and Bunyakiri; and women representatives are now attending security briefing meeting held each week at the Bunyakiri Administration office.
To further nurture future women leaders and educate adolescents on gender equality, International Medical Corps supported the creation of adolescent clubs where mentors worked to develop a positive perception of women and girls in their community. In total, 28 adolescent clubs were created and educated participants through open discussions between boys and girls on gender issues, good citizenship, peaceful coexistence, and positive ambitions. Girls-only sessions helped young women develop positive ambitions and draw on female leaders from their communities as role models. A total of 672 adolescents (332 girls) participated in the adolescent club activities.
Below is a story from a female participant in an International Medical Corps-supported adolescent club:
I am a 16 year old student at Cholobera institute, and I started participating in adolescent club discussions in August, 2014. It was the first time that I participated in a discussion where everyone was expected to express their own point of view. At the beginning, it was difficult for me and all the girls to speak before the boys and give a different opinion, because it is against our culture to disagree with boys in front of other boys. Little by little, the facilitator encouraged us to express ourselves, and I started gaining enough confidence to do so without feeling shame or fear. We continued having discussion sessions, and as we went along, I realized the sessions were helping me recognize my potential as a leader instead of simply helping me express myself in front of others.
Before joining the club, I had no ambitions and lacked knowledge regarding many things. I never knew what rights men and women had, nor did I know that there were special laws that protected children. I was also never taught about hygiene; sexually transmitted infections; the consequences of unwanted pregnancies; or even the menstrual cycle, because these subjects are not taught in school. The mentors at the adolescent club taught me about these legal and health subjects, which empowered me to take ownership of my future and become an active participant in my community. If I had not joined the adolescent club, I may have taken a very different path.
When I was 14 years old, I thought about dropping out of school to get married just as my older sisters had done. Fortunately, the Women in Leadership project started and I realized that it was not the time to think about marriage, because there were more important things to do. After participating in the program, I decided to get my certificate and then go to university in Bukavu. I started taking my studies more seriously and I became the second best student in my class. My parents noticed a change in my behavior and achievements, and are now giving me the same responsibility as my older brothers. My father wants my sisters to join the adolescent club, and he is encouraging me to avoid relationships with boys so that I can focus on my dreams. When I am done with university, I plan on coming back to shape the future of Kalonge.
I believe that I can truly make a difference in my community, because International Medical Corps already helped us deliver a project rehabilitating water sources in Kalonge. Access to clean water represents one of the biggest needs in Kalonge, and through this project, we were able to show the community that young people had an important role to play in its development while helping resolve a problem that even adults had not been able to solve.
With the support of Kalonge women leaders, our club decided to expand into the neighboring village to continue safe-guarding our leadership ambitions, and to give a similar chance to young women in other communities.”
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Resource Development Officer