A new study in The American Journal of Public Health estimates that women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are raped at a rate of nearly one per minute. Estimating that nearly two million women have already been raped in conflict-affected DRC, the study indicates that the prevalence of sexual violence is much larger than originally reported. In DRC where rape has long been used as a weapon-of-war to destabilize communities and tear apart families, researchers found that approximately 12 percent of local women were raped at least once.
International Medical Corps has worked in the DRC since 1999 to provide health care and gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and treatment as well as a host of other services. We support 85 health facilities in the DRC and built and support the Kalonge Reproductive Health Complex which offers health services to underserved women living in a remote eastern region. While we are committed to delivering vital health services to treat the physical effects of GBV, International Medical Corps is also addressing the root causes of GBV by working within communities to impact social attitudes, practices and norms associated with GBV. Through two generous grants from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), International Medical Corps has been able to provide a comprehensive program to prevent GBV as well as contribute to ending the prevalence of GBV in the region.
Through the Care, Access, Safety and Empowerment (CASE) project, International Medical Corps is increasing access to and quality of medical and psychosocial services for GBV survivors and strengthening local capacity to reduce vulnerability to future acts of violence in eastern DRC. As part of a holistic approach to strengthening local communities, International Medical Corps is also working to educate community-based groups on preventing GBV through the Bienvenue aux Changements dans la Communauté (BCC) program. Through this program International Medical Corps is working with community-based groups, local leaders and organizations to facilitate recognition that addressing GBV is in the best interest of all community members, and to develop alternative behaviors to prevent GBV and promote non-violence.
In addition to our programs to foster change in DRC, International Medical Corps is also raising public awareness in the United States on the prevalence of GBV in DRC. We collaborated with the Edgerton Foundation to promote nationwide performances of “RUINED” a Pulitzer-prize winning play by Lynn Nottage on the effects of GBV in war-torn DRC. In addition to distributing educational materials on our work, our staff and the cast conducted “talk-back” panel discussions with the audience to raise awareness and answer questions related to GBV and DRC.