Empower a Girl in the Congo

by International Medical Corps
Feb 24, 2014

Modifying Community Behavior to Empower Girls in the Congo

International Medical Corps has worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 1999, providing health care, nutrition, food security, gender-based violence prevention and treatment, and water and sanitation services. In a 12 month period alone (Oct 2012 – September 2013), a total of 1,422 cases of sexual violence were reported at health facilities in eastern DRC supported by International Medical Corps and received appropriate health care and treatment.

Our holistic approach works to support the health and well-being of survivors and their families and, through community outreach and education, aims to change attitudes and behaviors to prevent violence in the future.  International Medical Corps provides medical care, psychosocial support, legal services and livelihood development – so survivors can overcome the devastating effect of violence and rebuild their lives.  We train doctors, nurses and frontline healthcare workers and through our collaboration with Panzi Hospital, educate doctors in remote areas so they can repair fistulas, helping the community better meet the needs of survivors.  And, using popular music, local theater, youth events, radio soap operas, sports and sporting events, public service announcements and other community-based outreach, International Medical Corps works with young men and women to change attitudes and behaviors – helping to build a safer, healthier community for women and girls.

In this instance, International Medical Corps’ behavior modification partner in Goma was able to influence a man that was patronizing an establishment that offered young girls for prostitution.  Behavior modification lessons to the community empower women by changing the attitudes of their abusers, because very often, many abusive practices are seen as the norm in DRC and can be carried out without the abuser being stigmatized or punished.

I am a sand digger and a member of the group Friends of Sand Diggers in Green Lake, Goma. I used my income to pay for prostitutes, a norm among other group members. In my community, there are many drinking places with rooms available to engage in sexual activity with young girls. There is no stigma attached to prostitution and the practice is common and accepted.” 

“My opinion on prostitution changed in October 2012. I went to one of the drinking places with a girl under the age of 18. A couple of days later, I went to the same drinking place and I was approached by a community mobilizer who was conducting outreach for the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence. He discussed with me the consequences of having sexual relations with underage girls. When I learned that I could be arrested and imprisoned for 5-20 years, I became fearful and remorseful. I thought to myself, “I am still young and I cannot ruin my future by continuing this practice.” I am now working to deter fellow group members and friends from engaging in sexual activity with prostitutes.”

“I am grateful for the information and advice that I received from the members of the SGBV Community Coalition, because without it I may have ended up in jail.”

- 26-year-old man from Mugunga, Goma



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Organization Information

International Medical Corps

Location: Los Angeles, CA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.internationalmedicalcorps.org
Project Leader:
Los Angeles, CA United States