Women and children belong to the most vulnerable groups when it comes to war. They experience severe forms of violence, including sexualised violence. The women and girls then often experience a double trauma, firstly dealing with the physical and psychological consequences of the rape and then being excluded by their families and communities, who consider them responsible for the incident. In many cultures, the honour of the family and of the husband is closely connected to the supposed integrity of the wife’s sexuality, so raped women are judged to have brought shame over their husbands and/or families (rather than recognising the guilt of the perpetrator). They are then thrown out of their families and as a result, these women and girls have to care for themselves and their children without the usual support from their families and communities.
Nonetheless, women are significantly involved in the re-construction process of post-war and post-conflict countries. Additionally, they often act as peacemakers within their families and communities. The UN Security Council Resolution 1325 from the year 2000 acknowledges women’s important role within the peace processes of post-war countries. The resolution demands that all UN member states integrate more women into peace negotiations and security policy planning and establishes sexualised violence as a hindrance to successful peace building processes.
UN Resolution 1820 from 2008 even goes a step further by acknowledging that sexualised violence is used as a weapon of war and declaring this as a crime which can be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court as genocide, a crime against humanity or a war crime.
In March 2009 the human rights and politics department of medica mondiale started a three-year advocacy project called “Political Participation of Women and Girls in Afghanistan, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo)”, which is largely funded by the European Commission. Tying in with the above-mentioned resolutions, the project aims at empowering women to participate more actively in the peace processes and security policy planning in the three target countries. The women take part in trainings to teach them practical skills and theoretical background knowledge, which can then be applied directly in network meetings and advocacy activities at the national and international levels.
medica mondiale is implementing this project together with Medica Afghanistan and medica mondiale Liberia as well as its partner organisation in the DR Congo, PAIF. In Europe, the Brussels-based research organisation ISIS Europe, which works on conflict prevention, crisis management, peace building, arms control and disarmament, is involved as further consultant project partner, supervising and organising the project’s international advocacy activities.
The project management is implemented from the head office in Cologne and supported by a project coordinator in each of the three countries, who are responsible for the successful implementation of the project activities on the ground.
The content of the project is structured in following three clusters: trainings, advocacy activities and network activities.