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23 March 2016

Evaluation (2012-2015): Strong cooperation – How change can be achieved in Congo

“Improvements in the life situation of women and girls in eastern Congo who have been affected by sexualised and gender-based violence (SGBV)” – this is both the title and the aim of the joint project started in 2012 by the women’s rights organisation PAIF (Promotion et Appui aux Initiatives Féminines) and medica mondiale. At the end of 2014, the project evaluators Kathrin Groninger and Dr Aziza Aziz-Suleyman were able to see for themselves how extremely problematic the conditions are which PAIF works in. Despite this, the organisation not only provides urgently needed aid and support for survivors of rape, but also goes much further by making an immeasurably valuable contribution towards creating conditions of social justice. The two evaluators told the following story after their trip to DR Congo:

"A 14-year-old girl was living in a refugee camp in the municipality of Goma. One day, as she was cutting her neighbour’s hair, she was called over by a block warden whose ulterior motives were sexual. The girl refused to follow the warden’s order, confident the neighbour would help protect her. However, the warden sent his accomplices over. They started to aggressively harass the girl and then forcibly took her to the warden’s house. Together with him, they tied her up, raped her and beat her.

The girl tried to defend herself and cried for help. A member of a youth club for human rights heard her screams and he was able to take a photo of the situation and find the camp supervisor. But the supervisor refused to listen to the young man’s story. Later, even the Director of the National Council for Refugees turned the other cheek. News did spread, but then the families of the perpetrators and the victim came to an agreement.

The young human rights club member was not satisfied and sought out an adviser from PAIF, who visited the camp. The girl was still being held captive by the perpetrators and they refused to surrender her to PAIF. So the organisation alerted the police, who were able to ensure the girl was taken to hospital. Further, PAIF provided support to the girl’s family, empowering them to take the matter to court. As a consequence, the perpetrators were arrested and locked up. But the court case is not yet completed. The girl was also able to receive medical treatment.

This incident showed the inhabitants of the refugee camp that block wardens are not unimpeachable. Since then, there has been no further incidence of rape by wardens."

Pursuing one aim with multiple approaches

This story of the fate of one individual makes it clear how fundamentally important it is for PAIF to ensure different stakeholders are able to work together well so its efforts can succeed. PAIF cannot intervene successfully and efficiently unless it works together with local groups such as youth clubs or village communities and official bodies such as health centres, police forces and the judiciary.

This networking needs to be expanded even more, since this is the only way to achieve a long-term reduction in SGBV by having an impact on traditional thinking, structural corruption and other causes of the disastrous security situation.

Effective and long-term project activities to protect and empower survivors

  • Trauma-sensitive and gender-aware psychosocial and medical assistance
  • Providing vocational training to enhance independence, confidence and livelihood security
  • Setting up and supporting self-help groups
  • Expansion of communication and support networks
  • Prosecution of crimes and efforts to overcome impunity of perpetrators

In order to continue enhancing the clearly positive impacts achieved by the advocacy and awareness-raising measures in the programme, the evaluators recommend expanding the cooperation efforts with governmental and non-governmental partner institutions, at both national and international levels.

There is also significant potential in networking efforts with active youth clubs in local areas. Efforts to prevent sexualised violence would also benefit from a strategy to include men in the project work. This should include potential perpetrators and also male supporters.

Encouraging project report

The project report from the two external consultants clearly highlights the difficulties and challenges faced by the staff at PAIF. However, it also reveals the positive results that have already been achieved and the project’s future potential – both for affected women and girls as individuals and for positive change in society as a whole in the targeted regions of eastern Congo.

The report also encourages and motivates medica mondiale to continue this important cooperation with PAIF in order to enhance the essential process of combating the causes and consequences of sexualised and gender-specific violence in Congo. Since 2004 medica mondiale has been a partner of PAIF (Promotion et Appui aux Initiatives Féminines), a Congolese women’s and human rights organisation working in the regions of North and South Kivu, which are both badly affected by war and displacement.

The evaluation report was released in german.

Related issues

Project evaluations at medica mondiale

Quality assurance at medica mondiale