In spring 2010, ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan led to the displacement of over 400,000 people, with nearly 100,000 fleeing for safety across the Uzbekistan border. The conflict, which left 371 people dead and 2,326 injured (WHO Health Cluster), had widespread economic, political and social implications for a population long-affected by instability. In addition to injuries, deaths, psychological stress, and displacement, the conflict exacerbated an already high level of gender-based violence (GBV) in Kyrgyzstan.
With support from USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), International Medical Corps responded to the violence in southern Kyrgyzstan by working to strengthen access to comprehensive protection services and psychosocial support for GBV survivors and others in conflict-affected communities.
In Kyrgyzstan, GBV persists in many forms, including rape and sexual assault, domestic violence, forced and early marriage, and sexual harassment in the workplace. Law enforcement personnel and healthcare providers lack the awareness, sensitivity and training necessary to address GBV cases. There is also widespread belief that GBV is “normal conduct” and that it is the result of a woman’s provocation or “bad behavior”. Survivors often fear continued and increased abuse if they report GBV incidents; in the majority of reported cases, perpetrators are family members or individuals known to the survivors.
International Medical Corps has launched a large-scale GBV program in Osh and Jalal-Abad districts to raise awareness and strengthen referral and support systems for survivors of GBV. As part of the program, International Medical Corps trains local primary health care workers in the Ministry of Health and in communities, and plans to partner with the Center for Gender and Psychological Support to conduct GBV sensitization and awareness trainings for the local police. International Medical Corps works to strengthen community support networks through social activities and rehabilitation projects involving women, men, girls and boys. International Medical Corps also works with trained and dedicated volunteers to provide confidential psychosocial support to GBV survivors.
International Medical Corps is partnering with other national and international NGOs to assist those who are afraid of reaching out to receive GBV services. As part of the UN-backed “16 Days of Activism to End Violence against Women” campaign held from November 25 – December 10, International Medical Corps will facilitate special events including “Resource Fairs” to be held in each affected area where we operate. Three mini-trainings will be offered on human rights, GBV, and disability sensitivity. As participants visit the NGOs’ booths and complete trainings, they will receive signatures enabling them to enter their names into a raffle for items such as a bicycle and traditional clothing. Community trainings on guiding principles of GBV will also be offered.
One 50-year-old woman who was affected by GBV said, “We are really thankful that you have visited us, no local authorities or international organizations visited us to talk about the problem. Now I believe people care about us.”