Since 2002, International Medical Corps has helped lead the battle against widespread gender-based violence (GBV) in war-ravaged eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Our complementary USAID-funded Care, Access, Safety & Empowerment and Behavior Change Communications (BCC) projects take a comprehensive approach to meeting the needs of GBV survivors, while also preventing future cases by addressing community attitudes around gender and violence.
Children aged 10 to 16 at Bunyakiri High School in Eastern DRC have taken part in a range of activities organized by International Medical Corps to raise awareness about women’s rights, sexual health and the consequences of GBV. These activities, part of our BCC project, include mobile educational movies, sensitization sessions and soccer matches for girls.
Josh Harris, International Medical Corps Communications Officer, recently spoke to some of these students to ask them what they learned from International Medical Corps’ activities. Here are some of their answers:
“Before International Medical Corps came here, women were never considered, our status was very low. Now we are all living together much better.”
“During the mobile cinema, we learned that we should not have sex with lots of different people. We should be concentrating on our studies instead of running around with boyfriends or girlfriends.”
“I know that we must not reject women who have experienced sexual violence or if they have HIV, we should still welcome them into our community and into our homes. I also know that a woman who has been raped should go to the International Medical Corps health center within three days of the attack, so I have told my mother that and she has told all of her neighbors and friends.”
“Because of the [girls’ soccer] matches we play, I have met many new friends from areas outside my village. I say to my family that I am the example of gender equality because I go to play matches all over Bunyakiri.”
“Marriage when you are younger than 18 is forbidden. I have spoken to my parents about this and have told my younger sisters so that none of them will make the mistake of getting married too young.”
The teachers in Bunyakiri School also received the GBV training; they told us that the number of girls enrolled in the school has risen since International Medical Corps started working in their town.
“There is still a problem with girls getting married while at school and girls giving birth outside of marriage while at school, but now the other students have much more understanding for those girls. The most obvious change I have seen is that the girls don’t let the boys tell them what to do anymore.”