Holistic programming 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. Our holistic programs provide women with various types of support at local community centers. One specific area of support that has been much needed in the region is legal services. The following is one women’s story of how these services truly saved her life and gave her hope for her future as well as for her children’s future.
“I was raped twice in a span of one year. The incidences left me with severe abdominal pains and abandoned by my husband who was too ashamed to stay with me. He married another woman to replace me and often insulted and beat me up. To him, I was no longer his wife but the wife of the interhamwe. I was often humiliated, left without food and forced to continue working as a porter despite my medical condition. I had to otherwise my children would starve. I was all they had.
I got an unexpected visit one day from a woman to whom I described my illness. She referred me to the hospital and encouraged me to join other women at the community center. When I went to the community center, I found out that there was a woman who assisted people who had problems. I started talking to the woman and she made me realize that what I went through was not my fault. She continued to help me have a different perception of myself, to stop thinking of myself as worthless but someone who is useful in the community. But how does one continue with life if her husband has brought another woman to live with her in the same house and is insulted and beaten almost daily? After a few months, I went to see the lawyer at the community center and told him my problem. He called my husband and some family members for mediation. With the help of the lawyer, my husband stopped beating and insulting me. There was some peace. I received a kit with materials to start a small business. As the business grew, I gained more confidence because I was no longer relying on people to feed my children when my husband did not provide me with money. I feel I have my dignity back because I am no longer begging for anything. Sometimes I remember the incidences I went through and I choose not to have negative feelings about them anymore. I look to the future and see myself as a strong woman who is contributing to the positive development of her children.”
With the generous support of Global Giving and other donors International Medical Corps is able to bring this life-giving hope to the women of the Congo who need it most.
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