Here's an Urgent Update from Aimee Kady, Global Fund's Advisor in the DRC:
Triple Tragedy for Women Victims of Rape and Sexual Violence in Eastern DRC
Aimée Kady, GFW Advisor in DRC and Director of the Society of Women Against AIDS in Africa-DRC Chapter, shares a summary of her findings from an evaluation she undertook in late September 2007 of the impact of pervasive sexual violence in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
African society and particularly Congolese society recognizes women as playing the key role as the foundation of family life. Women guarantee the survival of 80 percent of households in a society where the state no longer plays its role. Despite her critical position of assuring balance and well-being in the family, the woman is victim to rape and sexual violence.
The evaluation study from South Kivu enabled us to meet community members impacted directly and indirectly by this horror. The study explains the extent of conflicts between armed factions who are at the root of this tragedy that has ruptured the stability of family life and the balance between men and women who lived in accord in times of peace.
During the conflict, all armed factions recruited young girls and boys. Women and girls were used as sex slaves or enrolled as armed soldiers with active roles. An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 women were raped during these conflicts. Rape and sexual violence continue to take place even in areas that did not experience war, thereby violating the fundamental rights of women.
Women suffer a triple tragedy: the physical, psychological and social damages that are for the most part, irreparable. Many women’s lives have been completely wrecked and they can no longer hope to enjoy a normal life as a woman. About 60 percent of women that were raped became pregnant, giving birth to innocent children called “children of the enemy,” the rejects of society who became a heavy burden to these women, the majority of whom are abandoned by their husbands and their neighbors, considered soiled by rape.
These abandoned women have regrouped in villages where they live alone with their children born out of rape. They are without help from neither the local community (which is also extremely poor) nor the international community (where are the UN agencies that are raising large sums of resources to assist women and children in distress?)
The climate of impunity, the silence of victims due to their fear of being stigmatized or rejected by their neighbors -- numerous women that have been raped live in the cities of Bukavu, Uvira and surrounding villages. These women sleep in churches and are exploited by day by the community that subjects them to work as porters for frightful loads (100 kgs) over long distances, for a negligible pay of 20 cents.
Rape victims, rejected and exploited by their neighbors, and by the international community, which takes advantage of this situation through projects that do not benefit these women in distress in eastern DRC. Such is the triple tragedy lived by women that are victims of rape.
November 5, 2007
Translated from French by Muadi Mukenge, Senior Program Officer for Africa, Global Fund for Women. Since July 2004, the Global Fund for Women has awarded over $550,000 to women’s rights groups in DRC working on building peace, ending the culture of impunity and assuring health, education, and economic opportunities for women and girls.
Photo Courtesy Réseau des Femmes pour un Développement Associatif, Congo