Female survivors of rape and sexual abuse are sharing their stories today at an event organized by the United Nations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where rape has been used as a weapon of war and an estimated 200,000 women and girls have been assaulted over the past 12 years.
The day-long programme in the eastern city of Goma is part of a joint campaign – “Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource, Power to Women and Girls in DRC” – organized by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls.
“It’s a historic occasion in the Democratic Republic of Congo in that for the first time women survivors are publicly speaking out on the situation of sexual violence,” UNICEF spokesperson Jaya Murthy said in an interview with UN Radio.
“We have 10 women that are speaking out today and making a declaration to the Congolese Government, to Congolese society and to the world that sexual violence must stop,” she stated.
Ms. Murthy noted that while “sexual violence is rampant and prevalent throughout Congolese society,” the area that has been most affected has been the eastern DRC, particularly the Kivu region, where clashes between Government forces and rebel groups broke out just weeks ago, despite the signing of a peace deal in January.
Sexual violence is still occurring on an “unprecedented” scale in the DRC, particularly in the east, she said. That is why today’s event is being held in Goma, the capital of North Kivu, and a similar one will be held in the capital of South Kivu, Bukavu, on 19 September.
The founder of V-Day and renowned activist, Eve Ensler, will participate in both events, which are also being supported by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC (MONUC) and dozens of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working to eliminate sexual and gender-based violence in DRC.