The Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice (WI) works with focal points and local partners in three conflict-affected provinces – North Kivu, South Kivu and Province Orientale.
WI and our partners have conducted documentation programme on conflict-related sexual and gender-based crimes (SGBCs) in eastern DRC since 2006. In the last 2.5 years alone, partners have documented close to 1,000 incidents of rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence as well as torture and mutilation. Increasingly this documentation data is utilized by partners in advocacy with local judicial actors and political decision-makers, as well as to support victims/survivors to access medical and other support services and assist individual survivors to access justice through domestic courts, primarily the mobile military courts in North Kivu. In each of these cases, perpetrators have been convicted of the SGBV charges.
This documentation material is also utilized in our ongoing advocacy with the ICC and other international actors. Our historic documentation material from 2006-2007 has contributed to the ICC’s work most recently in the case against Bosco Ntaganda.
Over the coming years we will continue our work at the ICC level as well as significantly increase our work domestically with conflict-related SGBCs victims/survivors. We will focus on: access to medical and psychosocial services and referrals to and livelihood programmes; strategically focus our SGBC documentation programme; continue our advocacy work for the domestic prosecution of conflict-related sexual violence in three provinces; and launch a new Strategic Accountability Project in South Kivu.
The support of local decision-makers (provincial political leaders, cultural and traditional leaders, judicial and military leaders) to combat conflict and SGBCs is critical. Raising awareness, knowledge, and support for gender justice issues through advocacy events and screenings of our gender justice documentary- Our Voices Matter – has proven to be effective. In the last 3.5 years, our partners have held 103 documentary screenings and advocacy events in three provinces involving over 9,500 judicial actors, provincial leaders, government ministries, police, military investigators, traditional leaders, community members and victims/survivors.
In recent years, WI partners advocacy screenings targeting strategic decision-makers combined with the use of the documentation data have contributed to:
- new laws expanding protection for additional forms of violence against women;
- motivating judges who participated in the screenings to visit police stations, demand to review the SGBV files and ask why these haven’t proceeded to Court;
- mobilising the Police in one province to hold monthly meetings with WI partners and other advocates to discuss ways to improve SGBV investigations and police responses to SGBV victims survivors;
- motivating faith leaders to seek training in gender justice issues and collaborating with WI partner in North Kivu as advocacy allies and in disseminating the sexual violence act more widely; and
- increasing SGBV reporting by female victims survivors following the screenings in remote communities.
Based on the annual programme assessments we conduct with our DRC partners, they are convinced that the advocacy screenings are a critical component of our multi-pronged approach in the DRC in reaching decision-makers, involving the community, legitimizing reporting SGBV incidents and changing community perceptions of victims of these crimes. Partners in three provinces report that the screenings are the door-opener for engaging traditional and political decision-makers, judicial and security sector actors in longer term actions, collaborative projects and motivating them to take action in their areas, courts or police stations.
Programme Priorities in North Kivu, South Kivu and Province Orientale in 2017-2019:
- Expansion of the Transit House Project and the launch of a third Transit House in Province Orientale in 2017.
- Capacity building opportunities for partners.
- Strategic documentation of conflict-related sexual and gender-based crimes with referrals to victims/survivors of medical services and legal representation, for those who wish to pursue formal accountability.
- Monitoring cases in mobile military courts of conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence allegedly committed by militia combatants or soldiers of the Congolese Army (FARDC).
- Launch and implementation of the new Strategic Accountability Project (South Kivu).
- Ongoing institutional development for WI focal points and partners.
- National advocacy with key ministries and government officials regarding ending impunity for SGBV, promoting gender equality, establishing greater security for the population in eastern DRC and building a platform for peace.
- Sub-regional and regional advocacy with a focus on the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region and the African Union.
- Host the Eastern DRC Gender Justice Dialogue in 2018 for 120 participants from at least four provinces affected by the ongoing conflict in eastern DRC.
- Strategic screenings and advocacy events utilizing the gender justice documentary for decision-makers, political leaders and judicial actors.