The DRC is among the lowest-scoring countries globally in terms of gender equality. Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) is widespread amidst often permissive attitudes which prevail in communities in which sensitization on such themes is sorely lacking. While ACTED is working to improve basic infrastructure, the realities facing women in the surrounding communities becomes all too apparent. In the provinces of South Ubangui and Bas Uélé, ACTED has established local SGBV focal points, supported health centres for survivor care, and carried out a wide reaching awareness raising campaing to tackle the scourge of SGBV.
To respond to the needs of SGBV survivors, ACTED trained 120 community focal points across the two target provinces to act as the first psychosocial contact point. These individuals are now chared with referring survivors to locally available support services so that they can access comprehensive care. ACTED also supported 48 partnering health centres to ensure the medical follow-up of survivors, with an associate legal clinic now active in informing and supporting victims in their quest for justice.
ACTED also provided psychologists to provide psycho-social support to survivors but also often to their families through overseeing individual interviews, family mediation and focus groups. Given how many survivors lives are deeply disrupted through being forced to flee their community, it was also crucial that ACTED promote income-generating activities to ensure they could re-establish their autonomy.
Following her attack, a survivor suffered greatly physically and lost her memory, which led her to wander for days in the forest. Her relatives thought she was under a spell. It took her a while to talk about it, but eventually she did. We were able to provide her with medical and psychological help. To see her gradually regain her health was a great victory.
Given how a lack of awareness hinders the identification of and response to cases of SGBV, sensitizating communities to its impacts is clearly essential. ACTED thus established a network of focal points who reached 42,000 people across the two provinces through sensitization sessions.
ACTED trained key actors who are now able to recognize situations of violence. These community leaders were then tasked with reaching out into their communities and promoting behavioural change. The sessions also reached judicial police officers as well as the employees of a local construction company responsible for public works.
After several months of activities, a tangible change has taken place in the area. The teams testify to a real liberation of the voice on the taboo subject of SGBV, from victims but also from the communities as a whole. In some places, the debate generated by the sensitization has even led to additional awareness of psychological violence against children.
Prevention solves many problems that can never be addressed by care. Through prevention, we can anticipate and reduce violence
ACTED's response is made possible with the support of the World Bank and UNFPA: