November 25, 2022
Universal Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women
In 2017, Doctors of the World Belgium launched the Protective Communities project in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which focused on empowering women and addressing gender-based violence. The results show how effective the help and support of the local community is in the fight against sexual abuse. In 2021, we further expanded our project to Uvira, where women suffer a high rate of sexual violence that goes unaddressed.
Through its nine health centers in Uvira, DotW contributes to offering medical and psychological care to victims of sexual violence. Our doctors provide care and treatment, as well as collect physical evidence to enable them to file a complaint. Our psychologists help them recover from the psychological trauma and regain their self-confidence and self-esteem.
Renilde is a midwife and nurse in Uvira, Democratic Republic of Congo. Take a moment to read her testimony.
“Every day, I share my time between the nine health centers supported by Doctors of the World. I help women give birth and I participate in the screening of women who have suffered sexual violence. The distance between the villages and the health centers is one of the many challenges we face every day. A pregnant woman who needs to be hospitalized for complications sometimes has to walk for 7 hours. If this is not possible, we appeal to the village residents to carry her on foot to the center. However, this journey poses dangers, sometimes the woman can experience further complications and may even die.”
“What makes me particularly happy is that this project allows us to provide free support to the local population: health care, food and transportation. It is also very satisfying when we learn that the HIV status of a survivor of sexual violence is negative because we were able to provide her with prophylactic treatment within 72 hours of the assault. This really makes us feel like heroes and heroines! And having a baby is surely the best moment.”
“In the Democratic Republic of Congo, life is particularly hard for young girls and women: they are often married at a very young age, sometimes to a polygamous man who has three wives. Women have no say and no access to education. They have to do everything from housework to childcare to field work and, if that wasn’t enough, they are victims of sexual assault. With our project, we are fighting for more rights for women.”