Uniting to End Violence against Women and Girls: 16 Days of Activism Launched in DRC

{Photo credit: Landry Serges Malaba}Students participating in the competition display campaign message of stopping violence against women and girls after visiting the IHPplus exhibition stand.Photo credit: Landry Serges Malaba

The USAID-funded Integrated Health Project, Plus (IHPplus) is helping to bring an important worldwide campaign to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The international campaign, “16 days of activism,” is a global call to action to raise awareness and discuss challenges and solutions for ending all forms of violence against women and girls in all parts of the world. Aligned with the United Nations Secretary General’s campaign “UNiTE to End Violence against Women” and first initiated by the Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991, this campaign takes place each year from November 25 (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to December 10 (Human Rights Day).

Activists, governments, civil society, women, men, youth, and adolescents join together to promote human rights, including the right to physical and mental health, education, good governance, and social and behavior change. The global community also commemorates events such as World AIDS Day (December 1) and the Commemoration of the Montreal Massacre (December 6) during the campaign.

This year’s campaign theme, “Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls,” reinforces the UNiTE Campaign’s commitment to a world free from violence for all women and girls, while reaching the most underserved and marginalized first--including refugees, migrants, minorities, indigenous peoples, and populations affected by conflict and natural disasters.

[Ms. Chantal Safu, DRC’s Minister of Gender, Family Affairs, and Children giving her speech at the campaign launch.]{Photo credit: Landry Serges Malaba}Ms. Chantal Safu, DRC’s Minister of Gender, Family Affairs, and Children giving her speech at the campaign launch.Photo credit: Landry Serges Malaba

While in recent years DRC has made considerable progress in the fight against sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV)--particularly through improvements in the legal framework protecting victims--most laws are not well-known among the general public, or even by officials responsible for their implementation. SGBV continues to leave its mark on new victims and their communities.

On November 25, government officials, partners and donors including UN agencies, USAID/DRC and its implementing partners, civil society, the media, and students gathered in Kinshasa to launch the campaign at the Academy of Fine Arts. The event was marked by speeches from Congolese officials, a student competition on laws protecting women and girls, performances by musicians who shared campaign messages through song and entertainment, and a gallery walk of exhibition stands.

Ms. Chantal Safu, DRC’s Minister of Gender, Family Affairs, and Children, recognized the efforts of different partners to end all forms of violence. She emphasized that educating people on the laws is crucial for improving the well-being of families and communities. Finally, she incited the crowd to action: “Together, let’s commit during these 16 days to ensure that nobody is left behind, and to refuse to tolerate violence against women and girls.”

The student competition was one of the highlights of the event. Students from six schools (the Kabambare high school, Bosembo Institute, Shaumba high school, Révérend Kim Institute, Kinshasa Academy of Fine Arts, and Fatima School) competed, answering questions about the different texts and laws protecting women and girls against violence. The Révérend Kim Institute won, answering the most questions correctly during the single-elimination competition. Partners, including IHPplus, provided the winning students with prizes such as tablets, printers, t-shirts, and pens featuring the campaign theme. 

[Students, representatives from women’s organizations, and IHPplus staff at the IHPplus exhibition stand.]{Photo credit: Landry Serges Malaba}Students, representatives from women’s organizations, and IHPplus staff at the IHPplus exhibition stand.Photo credit: Landry Serges Malaba

Government partners--including UN agencies and USAID--held exhibitions to disseminate legal documents and information on the promotion of sex equality, access to health services—including sexual and reproductive health services—the prevention of sexual violence, the family code, and child protection in DRC.

 USAID supports the Government of DRC in preventing and responding to sexual violence through projects like IHPplus. At the IHPplus exhibition stand, which more than 500 people visited at the launch, the project disseminated information on the law related to the elimination of sexual violence and the medical management and processing of sexual violence cases. The project included the campaign theme and signature orange color on materials (pens, USB keys, t-shirts, hats, and banners) displaying key messages: “Turn the world orange!” “Say NO!” “Everyone united to end violence against women!” 

IHPplus distributed materials—fact sheets, reports, and leaflets--illustrating project results that contribute to the fight against SGBV and promote maternal and child health. The project aligns its strategy to fight against SGBV and care for victims with national priorities and efforts. Interventions include supporting social and behavior change communication (SBCC) campaigns that disseminate messages on preventing sexual violence against women and girls, providing health services and psychosocial support for SGBV victims at health facilities, and encouraging victims to seek legal services and support for reintegration into their communities. From 2015-2017, IHPplus sensitized 19,000 people on SBGV messages, trained 931 health providers, and provided care to 6,117 survivors of SGBV. 

Louise Nzigire Bashige, Social Protection Program Specialist in the Peace and Security Office at USAID, commended IHPplus for its participation during the campaign launch, stating “I am pleased with IHPplus’ participation in this campaign, during which many students, young girls, and adolescents were sensitized on their rights. This project is playing its part to end violence against women and girls.”