We support women and girls in war and crisis zones
19. May 2022 - News

Democratic Republic of Congo: Breaking the cycle of gender-specific and sexualised violence

In the South Kivu province of DR Congo, local women’s organisations are working together with medica mondiale to improve the opportunities in the lives of women who have experienced extreme violence. By developing their counselling provision, networking, public awareness work and political campaigns, they are making an important contribution to peace in their region.

A group photo of the participants training to become psychosocial assistants.

In a context of armed conflicts in South Kivu, rape and other sexualised violence is widespread. The women and girls subjected to this violence suffer severe physical and psychological effects, but these are not the only consequences: they are also frequently stigmatised and receive no access to legal assistance. Meanwhile, many of the perpetrators escape punishment.

Integrated support and empowerment for women

Together with six local partner organisations, medica mondiale is working to break through this cycle of sexualised and gender-based violence. At the centre of the activities is the provision of integrated support for survivors, including medical referrals, legal counselling and economic assistance. Additionally, the partner organisations carry out public education and awareness-raising activities within the communities, and conduct political campaigns. In order to provide trauma-sensitive support for those affected, a regional pool of female experts is training psychosocial assistants (PSA) and providing training courses for staff members of partner organisations and healthcare institutions.

Stabilising affected women and girls

During the period of the programme, 2,365 survivors received integrated support; the focus was on psychosocial counselling. Some 60 per cent of these women are now psychologically stable; more than 20 per cent are better integrated within their families and communities.

Awareness-raising in the social environment

The partner organisations and the PSAs are now acknowledged within the target communities. More than 900 women have followed advice from a family or community member and visited a PSA. 1,245 community leaders have taken part in awareness-raising measures. Some 114,000 people were brought into contact via various channels with the issues of prevention and women’s rights. Some 60,000 people in 150 villages were informed about protection from sexualised and gender-based violence. On the issue of how bribery and corruption is a barrier preventing access to justice, a campaign reached leading representatives of politics and the judiciary at the provincial level.

Participatory learning process

The partner organisations play an essential role in supporting women in the region, and this programme could be conducted effectively in spite of the critical security situation and Covid-19 pandemic.

In some points, the evaluators identified potential for improvement. This applies to the monitoring and evaluation system, the legal counselling, and the involvement of clients and decision-makers. Additionally, medica mondiale should demonstrate more presence at the provincial level. It also needs to take more into account the varying expertise of the different organisations.

Overall, the evaluation was an important participatory learning process. Its results are already being integrated into the current, third project phase.