In an effort to raise awareness about violence against women, the World March of Women (WMW) was held in Bukavu, in South Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). International Medical Corps’ local staff joined in the rally along with 250 International Trade Union Confederation members from more than 160 countries as well as female members of Congolese unions, and civil society groups. The mass rally aimed to denounce sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and demand social justice for women in DRC, where sexual violence has been employed as a weapon of war spreading fear, exacerbating ethnic tensions and destabilizing communities.
In partnership with USAID, International Medical Corps is currently launching two programs to address SGBV in eastern DRC, one to provide critical services to survivors of SGBV, and the other to prevent SGBV through behavior change communication. Over the next five years, International Medical Corps will target over 1 million people in the region with messaging aimed at ending SGBV and providing information and services for survivors.
The October 17th rally in Bukavu was a sea of color, with women from all over DRC and the world joining in the march. Dressed in bright clothes made especially for the occasion out of fabric covered in slogans, the participants demanded an end to SGBV. Young and old marched together as hundreds of women filled the streets to make their voices heard in a region where women are underrepresented in government and are too often shut out of social dialogue regarding issues that greatly affect their health, safety and well being.
International Medical Corps has worked in the DRC since 1999 to provide health care, nutrition, food security, SGBV prevention and treatment, and water/sanitation services. In August 2010, International Medical Corps responded to an instance of mass sexual violence in Luvungi, a remote village in eastern DRC, where armed rebels raped over 250 women and children over a 4-day attack. Our local health teams were able to respond quickly and provide victims with emergency medical care and ongoing psychosocial counseling to treat the severe emotional impact of the attacks.