Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in the heart of Africa, has endured more than a century of exploitation and the deadliest conflict since World War II. Caritas Australia’s programs in the DRC promote peacebuilding and sustainable livelihoods as well as psychosocial and medical support for thousands of women and girl survivors of rape.
Why do we work in the DRC?
Despite its wealth of minerals and fertile land, conflict and corruption have devastated economic and social development in the DRC. Between 1998 and 2007, 5.4 million people lost their lives due to conflict, disease and
Fighting over land, minerals, politics and race continues to uproot communities, limit essential services, stunt communities’ economic growth, and undermine justice. By 2014, around 44 armed groups were operating in the DRC and 2.6 million people had been displaced by the protracted conflict.
Sexual violence has been widely used as a weapon of war in the DRC. In 2011 the Eastern provinces were found to have the highest prevalence of rape in the world. Women in the DRC report that a failure to bring perpetrators of rape and sexual violence to justice reinforces a culture of violence against women.
Poverty and instability throughout the country means many families are unable to send their children to school and thousands of children are forced or recruited into armed conflict.
Our work in the DRC
Our work focusses on women and girls who are the survivors of rape and sexual violence, child soldiers, and communities affected by conflict. With a focus on protection and advocacy, we support three programs covering issues such as HIV and AIDS, healthcare and psychosocial support, microfinance and agriculture.
Examples of our recent work
- In North Kivu, we support 'listening houses' that embrace survivors of rape and sexual violence. Since 2006, around 3,000 women and girls have received medical support, trauma counselling, and training so they can start their own business and send their children to school.
- We have helped hundreds of high school students, health workers, local authorities, rape survivors, and community leaders be champions for peace and justice in the DRC. Through training and workshops with police officers, ex-combatants and male leaders, our programs challenge gender discrimination and empower men to hold each other accountable for justice in their communities.
- Over six months in 2013, Caritas staff managed 10 cases of rape: half resulted in sentencing, the others were transferred for prosecution in a higher court.
- We are helping former child soldiers reconnect with their families and rebuild their lives as civilians. By July 2014, we had provided intensive psychosocial support and training in livelihoods and peacebuilding for 560 ex-combatants.
Take action for justice in the DRC
Fearless Voices: speaking up for peace, equality and justice in the DRC is a report on sexual violence and conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the report we share the words of courageous women and girls who have survived violence.
 International Rescue Committee, 2007
 UNHCR 2013 and Sexual violence in conflict - Report of the Secretary-General 2013
 Peterman A, Palermo T, Bredenkamp C. (2011) “Sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Population-based estimates and determinants", American Journal of Public Health, 101(6).