Helping Survivors of Sexual Violence in the DRC
As a charity part of our vision and our passion is set on helping the amazing people in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The country has faced years and years of conflict, in what was known as Africa’s first world war, an estimated 5 million lives were lost between 1994 and 2003.
Whilst the war may have been ‘officially’ over in 2003, conflict in the east continues to ravage the country. Since 2005 the United Nations Mission in Congo (MONUC) has recorded 80,000 reported cases of sexual violence in South Kivu alone. These systematic acts of violence traumatise communities and have irrevocably harmful repercussions at every level for the survivors. The people, and especially the women, of eastern DRC increasingly feel powerless to protect themselves. 87.7% of the population lives in conditions of extreme poverty (less then $1.25 a day), 71% suffer from food insecurity, 47.8% have no access to safe drinking water and 54% cannot benefit from basic health services (Faubert & UNICEF).
A key part of our model and approach is to work with local in-country partners to implement our Village Savings and Loans projects. In the DRC we are working with an amazing organisation called PAPROF, who work within communities delivering support programmes for female survivors of sexual violence in South Kivu.
PAPROF’s mission is to address medical, social and economic challenges faced by women and girls who have been subjected to brutal and systematic sexual violence.
Our work with PAPROF and implementing Village Savings and Loans projects in South Kivu is to prevent, protect and respond to sexual and gender based violence in the supported communities. We are working hard to support not only the direct survivors but also the indirect survivors to resume their normal lives in their families and communities, and develop a sustainable future for themselves.
PAPROF have completed a significant amount of research in the communities they work in, the examples below are from their research, they are very traumatic and difficult to read but provide us with the motivation and purpose to make a difference.
Research shows that as well as the physical and mental impact on the victims there is also discrimination, extreme poverty and a lack of social support that all contribute survivors feeling hopeless and with no where to turn with their needs. This story of a 52 year old lady in South Kivu is very distressing and unfortunately is all too common in the DRC.
“It was one night and all the village was attacked, 4 men jumped into our house. They first cut my husband’s throat and killed him. They forced me to drink his blood but it was not sufficient because at the end they all 4 men rape me. I feinted and recover life the morning. I tried to leave the house and hid myself in a field but discovered that all the village has fled after what happened during the night. I also fled the village.”
Many survivors are forced to leave their villages without a choice but to start a new life somewhere else, much like this next example.
“I could not support myself or my family and was obliged to leave Tumbibi (a village) and go to Munzizi (a village) but as life become worst and worst I fled to Bwahungu then here in Mugogo. People of good heart came and took me to Panzi hospital. I received medical treatment at the Panzi hospital and returned home but found my house was burnt. Two of my children fled into the forest and do not have their news to now. I went to my young sister. My first born who was in Kasongo [a village in North Katanga province] once he knew his father was killed, he came and sold the field we used to cultivate but he was later killed, he left to me two of his children. My young sister brought me to a “transit house” in the village where women victims of sexual violence meet for counselling, preparation for medical treatment in Bukavu city and transit to return home after treatment. I go from field to field to work and gain money or natural product that is a measure of cassava [equivalent of 1 USD]. I collect Cassava’s leave and make food to leave. In Mugogo, I was welcome in the Catholic Church’s women group who collect for me 1 dress, 4 plats and 2 water container. As to get water one has to pay 100Fc (equivalent of 0.01 USD), I stay at the river making the maintenance (cutting herbs around for example).”
We are passionate about making a difference in a place that is in desperate need.
Our approach is not to stick a plaster over an open artery, our approach is to empower people from the bottom up, providing them with a help up, the tools and the support to develop a sustainable future.