BUKAVU (South Kivu,DRC), February 26, 2014-A fact-finding mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo—led by Nobel peace laureate Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, and organized by the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict—Tuesday called on the government of the DRC and the international community to put women at the centre of peace efforts and bring an end to rampant sexual violence.
“They say that the DRC is the rape capital of the world,” said Gbowee. “But what I see is that it is the capital of strong women and solidarity among women. We are here to support the courageous women who have survived rape and other forms of sexual violence—and are now working to help other survivors. These women are the peacemakers, and they need to be supported to bring true peace to this country. They have told us: ‘enough is enough’–no more war on women’s bodies.”
The group, which also included American journalists, philanthropists and women’s right experts, visited Kigali (Rwanda), Bunia in the Orientale province of the DRC and Bukavu in South Kivu of the DRC. At each stop, the group met with women’s organizations, grassroots groups working on justice, provincial government officials, and officials from the UN and other international organizations—and also toured women-led projects aimed at supporting survivors of sexual violence. The delegation came to the DRC at the invitation of women’s organizations in the DRC that are part of the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict.
“We work with organizations around the world who care deeply about the situation of women in the DRC,” said Julienne Lusenge, the President of Solidarite Feminine pour la Paix et le Developpment Integral (SOFEPADI). “Together with our partners in the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict, we are calling upon the governments of the region to come together with us to ensure adequate access to care for survivors of sexual violence all across the DRC—and end the impunity that still exists for committing rape and other atrocities against women.”
The fact-finding mission met with over 350 women in the DRC. The women presented the delegation with key recommendations for the government of the DRC, governments in the region as well as the international community. The recommendations include greater protection for human rights defenders, effective application of transitional justice in DRC and reparations for survivors, access to a full range of services for survivors (medical, psychological, legal and socio-economic, family planning) across the DRC, reform of the police, army and other judiciary mechanisms and the full implementation of the National Action Plan on Sexual and Gender-based Violence.
One of the key concerns is the lack of adequate funding for grassroots women’s organizations.
“Groups like SOFEPADI do so much—with so little,” said Elizabeth Bernstein, the Executive Director of the Nobel Women’s Initiative an organization created by six women Nobel peace laureates. “These small organizations have the knowledge and skills to provide a full range of services to women in the DRC. We are calling for more direct support to such grassroots organizations.”
The delegation will end it’s mission in Kigali, where it will be meeting with local officials, members of the diplomatic community and representatives of international agencies.