In the eastern provinces of North Kivu South Kivu and Province Orientale, where we collaborate with local partners, there are few health centres and medical and support services for victims/survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), including those affected by armed conflicts.
Local and international NGOs are trying to fill the significant unmet assistance and support needs for SGBV victims. The Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice and local partners in South and North Kivu, Action des Femmes pour les Droits et le Développement and Ligue pour la Solidarité Congolaise, respectively, have been operating the Transit House Project since 2012.
This project is designed to identify and assist victims of conflict-related SGBV in remote areas to access medical treatment and psycho-social support through: providing victim survivors with preliminary psycho-social assessments; providing referrals to local health centers and assistance to access these facilities; and referrals and transportation to hospitals for more specialized medical treatment including surgeries.
The Transit House is also a facility where victims/survivors can stay while waiting for their surgeries and for postoperative care and recovery before returning home. While most of the participants in this project are female (women and girls including babies), a small number of male victim survivors of sexual violence have also been assisted to access psycho-social and medical support.
Between July 2016-March 2017, the Transit House Project assisted 919 SGBV victim/survivors of sexual and gender-based crimes to access medical treatment and psychosocial support. Since July 2013, over 3,200 victim/survivors of these crimes have been assisted of whom 85% were also assisted through the Project to access surgeries for rape-related injuries. Prior to the Project, only 214 SGBV victims/year had access to medical and psychosocial support in the areas now reached by the Transit House Project.
Since 2014, the project has also provided over 600 outreach sessions informing the community about SGBV support services, the importance of reporting these crimes, and the legal right to redress for sexual and gender-based crimes provided for under the Sexual Violence Act. These sessions have involved over 15,000 community participants.
Not only has the project been shown to be effective, it has also led to the expansion of related activities including: (1) interviewing victims/survivors who participate in the project and who give their consent to participate in the documentation programme; (2) referrals to community livelihood programmes to assist victims/survivors; and (3) the provision of referrals and support for legal representation for those who wish to pursue cases before domestic courts.
Complementing these strategies, we are collaborating with local partners to monitor the mobile courts, especially in North Kivu, specifically focusing on conflict-related SGBV cases and advocating for the participation of victims of these crimes. In this way we are able to follow the full arc of the process from documentation, assistance, referrals and advocacy for those who seek redress through the formal justice system.
The Transit House Project has become a holistic programme incorporating access to services, advocacy and legal accountability.
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.