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Standing with survivors in DRC

Thanks to your generosity during our 2020 WEE BOX campaign, £1.2 million of match funding from the UK Government has helped improve the lives of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In just one year, the project has supported over 2,300 survivors and their families to access medical care, psychological and legal support, and financial services.  

Eastern DRC is a region where social and political unrest have raged for decades. One weapon used in the conflict is sexual violence, and levels of rape and sexual assault are very high – especially among women and girls.  

Through our local partners, we’re working to support survivors to work through their trauma, re-build their self-esteem, and create a better future for themselves and their families. We're also tackling the underlying causes of gender based violence, by educating local community and faith leaders.

One key part of the project is medical support – which includes access to medical and surgical care, pregnancy and STI screening, and other specialist services.  

Psychological support is also provided through the work of 31 ‘Listening Centres’ across the region. Thérèse Mema Mapenzi, Director of Centre Olame, one of our partners working in the DRC, described the work of these centres,  

These are safe spaces where we welcome survivors who experienced rape, or who are living with sexually transmitted illnesses such as HIV. We listen to their problems. We provide different methods for them to express their trauma. We support their husbands, families and children. And we try to understand what they need from us to move forward in their lives.

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In the first year of the project, over 300 people were also able to improve their income by joining savings and loans groups and receiving livestock such as guinea pigs, hens, rabbits and goats to produce manure for farming. Being part of such groups not only supports survivors financially, but also encourages relationship building and the development of leadership skills in the community.

Angela* is 40 years old and has six children. While dealing with a past trauma, Angela’s husband walked out on the family and she had no other support. Often unable to feed her children and meet their other needs, Angela felt embarrassed and alone. She was struggling to cope.   

Through one of the project’s listening centres, Angela received therapy and psychological counselling to work through her trauma,  

The counselling I received and continue to receive is changing my life. My trauma was not allowing me to concentrate on anything anymore. After the counselling I understood that I am still a normal person, useful for myself and for others, despite being abandoned by my husband. Now I am starting to collaborate with others and join other women’s groups.

In the future, Angela hopes to join a savings group and to rear livestock that will provide manure for her fields. With the counselling provided by the project, she now feels hopeful for the future.  

*Name has been changed 

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