Misplaced funding fail to support survivors of violence

Solange Lwashiga of the Women Caucus for Peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo says donors define policies without involving local women’s organisations. Picture Courtesy of AWLN
Solange Lwashiga of the Women Caucus for Peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo says donors define policies without involving local women’s organisations. Picture Courtesy of AWLN

In 2007, at least 48 women were being raped every hour in the Democratic Republic of Congo and within a day there would be 1,152 women who had experienced sexual violence, according to research by the International Food Policy Research Institute at Stony Brook University in New York and the World Bank.

In 2010, Margot Wallström, the United Nations Special Representative for Sexual Violence described the Democratic Republic of Congo as the “Rape capital” of the world.  It was then noted that most of the rape cases in the country are committed by armed men.

In the Demographic Health Survey 2013-2014 of the Democratic Republic of Congo, 52 percent of women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 and over 27 percent of women have experienced sexual. Of the women who have experienced sexual violence 30 percent were from rural Democratic Republic of Congo and 22 percent from urban.

Study

A 2016 study initiated by the African Women Development Fund to assess the current context and incidences of Violence Against Women (VAW) in the Democratic Republic of Congo indicates that sexual violence remains high and with a huge funding gap for women’s organisations to deal with sexual violence.

Of the $4.8 billion, estimated funding available throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo, local women’s organisations receive less than 0.002 percent to combat violence against women.

“Local actors have noted that medicalised or single faceted humanitarian projects tend to be favoured over community based and holistic approaches in response to violence against women and girls,” says the assessment dubbed Nothing Without Women.

Policy making

Solange Lwashiga, of the Women’s Caucus for Peace in Bukavu, South Kivu says the problem is in policy making. “In the field of response to violence against women, policy is defined at a high level with development partners where women are not present.

They define policies without us yet these imported policies are not effective on the ground,” says Lwashiga.

Female lawyers in the Democratic Republic of Congo intervene through mobile legal clinic in which they offer free services. However, lack of sufficient funding hinders them from following cases to completion. “Though we initiate the legal process, we are unable to see an impact. We face challenges in accompanying the survivor to the end of the legal process, and this leaves the survivor hanging,” says one woman who spoke during the assessment.

Survey

The survey by African Women’s Development Fund focused on sexual violence beyond conflict, noting that women encounter the cycle of violence in all spheres including political, cultural and social aspects.

“Sexual violence is not a category on its own. It’s gender based violence that is tied to the patriarchal system in society which perpetuates the subordination of women,” indicates the report.

The report notes: “There were anecdotes of where rape was used as a form of trade by some individuals and no longer regarded as a violation of human rights.”

However, it notes the lack of statistical data to substantiate the claims or measure the scope of tendency.

It also notes that new forms of violence, including sexual violence was found to be taking place within the family and in institutions.

Knowledge gap

Areas of Eastern Congo report the highest incidences to prevalence of sexual violence against women but the report notes: “There are no notable changes with regards to intervention from humanitarian to development context.”

The report cites knowledge gap which ultimately limit access to funds. Between government, donor and women organisations, the report notes, there are varying priority areas for financing interventions. The survey notes that while sexual violence occurred in the post-conflict context, donor funding continued to intervene in the humanitarian context.

“There is a difference in priorities by different players which points to a lack of organisation and synergy in interventions which though humanitarian is not geared towards development.

The humanitarian approach addresses the medical aspect of the victim but fails to address social and psychological reintegration aspect.”

The funding to women’s organisation is also done on an annual basis and this was a hindrance to sustainability among other shortcomings. It also notes that administrative costs accounted for over half of the allocated funds.

Approach

The fragmented approach to violence against women and girls and funding challenges was hurting the intervention process.

For things to work out positively in a way that impact is being felt at the community level, a holistic approach that is acceptable to all players should be adopted. This should include full participation of all in the development and implementation of policies geared towards ending violence against women and women’s rights in general.

The changing and evolving forms of violence should be researched and documented and data generated to justify programming.