With a population of nearly 66 million, Congo spans a territory as large as Western Europe. Over the last two decades, five million have died in conflict – either as a direct result of fighting or because of disease and malnutrition. For women and girls, the conflict has bought not only poverty and displacement, but also sexual violence as a tool of war. It is crucial the impact of this is recognised and women are given help to recover.
Our partners Centre Resolution Conflits (CRC), are running programmes to help women recover. Their latest work includes working with the woman’s association of Kyavinyonge – a town in eastern Congo – to identify and help women who have experienced sexual violence. With funding from Peace Direct, CRC have engaged a clinical psychologist to assess the needs of the women and provide them with the vital treatment and support they need to settle back into their communities.
One such girl is 15-year-old Mayifa. In May 2013 she was captured in her home of Rutshuru by M23 militia. In captivity she was used as a sex slave and spy. Finally she managed to escape and fled back to her family. Arriving home in physical and psychological pain, she was rejected by her family because of the stigma attached to her abuse. Her mother, giving her five dollars, told her to flee to Butembo – there she could hide from her abusive past without bringing her family into disrepute. But after such violent abuse, how could she restart with her life without help?
In Butembo Mayifa came into contact with CRC. The first thing they did was get her seen by a doctor. On her left arm she had been badly injured, branded by M23 as a member – the marking was infected and Mayifa was in pain. After treatment for her wound, CRC arranged for her to meet with a psychologist to access her needs and start helping her overcome the trauma. Next CRC will work with Mayifa to identify how best to help her back into her own community. This usually involves placement on a livelihoods programmes so Mayifa can earn a sustainable income and pay for books and pens to go to school.
This is just one woman they are helping. Together we can support them in helping many more.