When the guns are silent in Congo, it doesn’t mean the war has stopped. For thousands upon thousands of women – no one can ever know how many – the current conflict in Congo will rage in their bodies, minds and hearts long after a ceasefire has been called.
These are the women who have been raped. Raped by one man, raped by groups of men, raped by men who use rifles, branches and bayonets to ensure their bodies will be hurt and broken for a long time to come.
Once the terror of an attack is over, women face a different kind of agony. Am I pregnant? Have I got HIV?
International Women’s Day, 8th March, was an occasion for Caritas in the eastern Congolese town of Goma to draw attention to the theme “Women’s leadership in the fight against HIV and AIDS”.
Caritas seeks out rape victims and invites them to specialised centres where they receive counselling and medical treatment. The women are also taught new and marketable skills in a sewing workshop.
Caritas is currently helping 850 victims of sexual violence. Those who have borne children as a result of rape receive rations consisting of maize flour, sugar, vegetable oil, soya, beans, plus items for hygiene as well as clothes.
Once their basic needs are taken care of Caritas helps them take a step towards future independence by supporting them in income generating projects.