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Community Healing in the DRC: PWRDF partners with Maison Dorcas and PANZI Foundation to support SGBV victims

A woman tends to a project-supported crop field

February 27, 2024

By Jacqueline Tucci

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In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, ongoing war has created a deeply unstable and unsafe environment for hundreds of thousands of women across the country. Rape and sexual assault are often used by soldiers as a tactic of war against women in their home villages and communities. With nowhere to go, Maison Dorcas – part of the PANZI Foundation – provides services and support to survivors of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) so they can heal and safely reintegrate into their communities.

PWRDF has partnered with the PANZI Foundation and Maison Dorcas in a new phase of a successful project, which began in 2019. This second phase – which began in October 2023 and will run until September 2024 – places a heavy emphasis on agricultural skills, as many of the affected women live in rural communities. Fields, agricultural implements, seed, goats, pigs and fishing equipment are being distributed during this phase. Agricultural success has been proven to boost survivors’ self-esteem and facilitate their reintegration back into their families and communities, while the increase in financial autonomy mitigates the risk of becoming a victim to SGBV again. PWRDF is supporting this project phase with $85,188.54.

During the project’s initial phase, PWRDF supported Maison Dorcas and the PANZI Foundation with $180,000 to provide women with vocational training and microfinance loans so they can earn an income and gain independence. Through the initial phase of this project 1,021 women received vocational training from Maison Dorcas; and 878 were successfully reintegrated back into their communities and using their newfound skills to earn an income. Most of those women said that their income was sufficient to meet the needs of their households.

This project is operating primarily in Bukavu, the capital of the province of South Kivu – a province comprised of 8 territories. Bakavu – which had a population of 870,954 as of 2016, based on registered voters – is a meeting point for all the province’s various ethnic groups and tribes, as well as those outside the province. Deeply rooted corruption has led to most cases of sexual assault going unreported. On top of this, multiple armed groups exist in South Kivu who take advantage of deficiencies in the army, raiding, looting and burning remote villages. Women and girls are often kidnapped and raped during these raids. Maison Dorcas and the PANZI Foundation have helped thousands of these women through their programs and services. This complex and protracted humanitarian crisis is worsened by population movements, acute food insecurity, malnutrition, and epidemics. Current project activities in agriculture and microfinance have emerged in recent years to address the compounding factors contributing to ongoing challenges and threats faced by community members, especially women and girls.

In addition to the physical and psychological suffering caused by sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), there are also other harmful consequences to rape in South Kivu. Some victims are abandoned by their families and communities due to the stigma surrounding SGBV. That is why Maison Dorcas and the PANZI Foundation consider it necessary and urgent to keep the restoration of hope for victims and their families at the center of their work.