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10. October 2019

DR Congo: Women’s rights as the motor of change

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women. In 2018 it had the highest incidence of cases of sexualised violence worldwide. Armed conflict, expulsions and the new outbreak of Ebola all contribute to a very tense security situation. Our partner organisation PAIF knows how important it is to keep carrying out preventive measures, even amid the urgent need for emergency assistance. Their new cross-border project is helping to enhance women’s rights in the region.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is some six times as large as Germany. It has a population of 80 million, but some 13 million of them are dependent on humanitarian assistance. A new outbreak of Ebola last year in the eastern part of the country has since become the second largest epidemic in the world, with WHO figures recording 1,600 deaths already by July 2019. In the neighbouring country Uganda, government authorities were well prepared for the outbreak, but our partner organisation PAIF reports that in DR Congo there are no effective measures to monitor or curb the spread of the illness, leading to the risk of an uncontrolled Ebola epidemic.

Violence in conflicts primarily affects women and girls

The history of the country, particularly its eastern regions, is closely connected to that of the neighbouring countries Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda. The whole region has seen violent conflict, poverty and displacements. Rebel groups and militia move across international borders and carry out brutal attacks on the general population. This particularly affects women and girls, since they are raped, tortured and abused.

Soldiers and paramilitary forces rape women to humiliate and break apart families or communities: attackers achieve a symbolic destruction of the enemy by violently seizing control of the body of ‘their’ women. Sexualised violence takes place in all armed conflicts. Civilians are also involved, and it is even present in refugee camps. Our long years of experience in war and conflict areas have also shown us that violence within relationships and families increases dramatically in difficult situations such as camps or when fleeing to seek refuge.

Cross-border networking for sustainable prevention of sexualised violence

For our partner organisation PAIF this means: every day they take care of raped women and girls, accompany them to find initial treatment in health clinics and offer them psychosocial counselling. In spite of the huge numbers of urgent cases they need to deal with, the women at PAIF know how important it is to continue their preventive work. So PAIF offers literacy courses and organises support groups where women can learn skills such as tailoring or baking which they can then use to earn their own living.

Many of the challenges they face, especially the high incidence of gender-based violence, are common to all our partners in the Great Lakes Region in Africa. As a reaction, medica mondiale has started the joint project “See Far” with PAIF, SEVOTA from Rwanda and MEMPROW from Uganda. These organisations want to exchange experiences and insights in the prevention of sexualised violence. They will learn from each other and develop common concepts for training parents, teachers, community elders, police and court workers. The project will involve visiting each other, joint public awareness campaigns and a conference on the topic of feminist spaces. Together they will work on ways to remove patriarchal structures across borders and make the whole region a safer place for women and girls.

That's how much our help costs, which is only possible with your donation:

  • 32 euro is the cost of one Starter Kit for women who successfully complete a vocational course (e.g. tailoring and sewing, hairdressing, baking and cooking).
  • 68 euro covers the costs of awareness raising work and dialogue facilitation with local authorities.
  • 182 euro is the price of an oven that can be used for vocational courses teaching women and girls how to bake.

Authors: Laura Fix, Mechthild Buchholz and Sophia von Merzljak, employees of medica mondiale
Published in memo (2019/02), p.8 (german)
A longer version was published in the german magazine afrika süd Nr. 4, July/August 2019

Related topics

More about our projects in Central Afrika

Evaluation in DR Congo: Partner organisation PAIF to improve women’s aid provision

"Go to PAIF!" – Integrated support for women and girls in Eastern Congo

New projects in Western Africa: Tackling sexualised violence across borders