Stepping up protection
Despite recent peace agreements, the conflict that ravaged the Democratic Republic of Congo for decades lingers on. North Kivu, in the east of the country, is still a tinderbox, and it is ordinary families who frequently find themselves caught in the crossfire between government troops and rebel factions. Communities in North Kivu live in constant fear of looting, theft, abduction, torture, and sexual violence. It is women who are most at risk. It is women who are stepping up to conquer their fear and put protection plans in place.
During three years, with support from the Music Circle, Oxfam worked with vulnerable communities to set up a network of protection committees that helped to make North Kivu a safer place to live. Oxfam also provided access to health care and legal aid for survivors of violence and, through workshops and human rights campaigns, they made sure that the stigma of reporting sexual violence becomes a thing of the past.
Building relationships with rebel and military authorities – often the abusers – has been a huge step forward for the protection committees. As have the regular training sessions and public campaigns on women’s rights.