The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been dubbed “the most dangerous place on earth for women”. Sexual violence has reached epidemic proportions as a consequence of the war that has raged for the last 14 years. Over that time, more than 200,000 women and children, some as young as 6 months old, have been raped by combatants who see their actions as a weapon of war, destroying the enemy by destroying their women, and thus, their future.
There have been attempts to end the conflict, so far to no avail. Meanwhile, women and girls continue to suffer. Now, they are asking that the international community listen to them and take into account their views and ideas.
In March, a group of Congolese women travelled to New York to participate at the United Nations 54th Commission on the status of women, to put forward their ideas for ending the conflict and thus the violence they and their countrywomen face daily. They had four key suggestions:
1. Call for an Inter-Rwandan dialogue between Rwanda’s Tutsi leadership and Hutu rebels inside Congo. There are no military solutions to what is essentially a political crisis.
2. Opening and expansion of democratic space inside both Rwanda and Uganda so their internal conflicts will cease being fought on the bodies of Congolese women.
3. Greater participation in political life and the decision-making process on the part of Congolese women.
4. Redirection of focus on the part of the global community from targeting the symptoms or effects of the conflict to addressing the root causes - primarily a foreign resource war being waged inside Congo to the detriment of innocent civilians.
What it comes down to is, sexual violence in the DRC is a consequence of the war, therefore to end the violence against women, we must end the war. Since these women are living within the situation daily, surely their suggestions merit serious consideration?
At World In Need we believe so. Through our sponsorship programme, we aim to help children who have been caught up in this violence. Sponsored children are able to go to school which gives them security and safety they might otherwise not have. Those who have borne children as a result of the rapes are given access to child minders so that they can continue their educations.
Of course, school also provides the girls with an education which will equip them for the future, giving them the knowledge and skills necessary to be part of the process of government. Women can bring a whole new way of thinking, and a new focus which can open doors for solutions that have hitherto eluded us.
Through the generosity of sponsors, World In Need has been able to help several girls towards a brighter future but there are so many more who have not yet been given the opportunity they need. The more we can help now, the better things will be for the whole country in the years to come.
If you would like to know more about our sponsorship programme and how it helps the children of the Congo, or if you’d like to know more about being a sponsor and what it entails, please visit our website, http://www.worldinneed.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org