CCIH Members Respond to Sexual Violence Print

From the October 2012 CCIH Connector

 
As we reported in the September Connector, October 11 is the first International Day of the Girl Child, a day enacted by the United Nations in December 2011. Last month’s Connector included an article on the status of women and girls with respect to education, opportunities, equity in pay and other metrics of equality. While there is still great room for improvement, the situation is continuing to become more favorable for women and girls in most parts of the world.
 
However, sexual violence threatens these advancements and the health and well-being of women and girls everywhere. Often ignored and denied in societies, sexual and gender-based violence includes sexual abuse, harassment, rape or sexual exploitation in prostitution and pornography. While it is a difficult topic to address, faith-based organizations are responding by helping victims, raising awareness and developing tools to help pastors discuss sexual violence with their congregations.
 
“Through IMA’s work through the USAID-funded USHINDI program in Eastern Congo, we have become acutely aware of the issue of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and the effects it has on individuals, communities and public health,” said Rick Santos, president and CEO of IMA World Health, a CCIH member. “We know that people who have been the victims of violence are more likely to enact violence on others; it’s a vicious cycle. With this heightened awareness, we realized just how widespread the problem of SGBV is—while it doesn’t always look the same, it’s found in every country and culture in some form.”
 
Through USHINDI, IMA connected with UK-based Tearfund, also a CCIH member. Tearfund is providing support as the secretariat for a new faith-based coalition called We Will Speak Out (WWSO). Tearfund released a report in early 2011 called “Silent No More” that examined the Church’s role in responding to SGBV and called for more direct action and engagement. “We could not read the report without feeling compelled to act,” said Santos. “IMA is working with our members and other groups to build a U.S.-based coalition to work alongside the U.K.-based WWSO.” 
 
USHINDI: Healing and Strengthening
 
USHINDI has four main components that create a holistic response to SGBV in Eastern DRC: medical care, psychosocial counseling, legal support and economic support. Through USHINDI, a woman (or man) can get medical treatment for injuries sustained in an attack, emotional and counseling support, assistance in bringing attackers to justice, and literacy tutoring or skills development to help them support themselves and/or their families. 
 
Importantly, USHINDI also raises awareness in communities about the importance of equal treatment and opportunities for women and girls, and what the laws really say about rape and women’s rights. Though mass rapes by rebel militias are what usually comes to mind about Eastern Congo, there are cultural norms in the community that IMA and its partners say they are working to overcome as well to ensure that women and girls enjoy the same human rights as men. 
 
International partners in USHINDI include the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, Save the Children and CARE; while local partners include Children's Voice, Program for Promotion of PHC, HEAL Africa and the Panzi Hospital Foundation.
 
Program Impact
 
Because of its multi-faceted approach, USHINDI has proven to be very successful in addressing SGBV. One woman told IMA staff, “Without USHINDI, well, I would be dead.” And another young woman -felt so empowered after participating that she decided to throw off cultural restrictions and build a new house for herself and her children “with her own two hands.” This is not something women are “allowed” to do, but her husband had left and her home was falling down around her. Rather than accepting her fate, she took control and literally built a better life for her family. Read her story
 
A look at the numbers:
 
-Since the project started in 2012, USHINDI has supported a total of 9,635 SGBV survivors and other beneficiaries. (7,503 were SGBV survivors.)
-7,318 SGBV survivors have received medical support; 93.7 percent of these were females.
-9,141 people have received psychosocial support; 93.9 percent were females.
-4,056 people have been supported with legal assistance.
-885 cases have been taken to court.
-A total of 12,217 people have received economic support (i.e. micro-loans and/or job skills training); 83 percent are women.
 
Working with Refugees in Uganda
 
Another CCIH member, Medical Teams International (MTI), is partnering with the Uganda Ministry of Health; the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration; and UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) to serve 60,000 refugees in Nakivale and Oruchinga settlements in southwest Uganda through six health clinics. This partnership began in 2010 as a response to the influx of refugees from DRC and the identified gaps in health care services at the resettlement camps, especially in the area of primary health care.
 
According to Trina Chase, Africa program manager for MTI, SGBV is a particularly challenging issue in the resettlements because the refugees come from different backgrounds and have varying understandings about sex, gender and rape. In DRC, for example, girls 13-17 years old are regarded as adults and ready for marriage. Other cultures believe that a woman should never say no to sex or that it is improper for a woman to agree to sex—that she must be coerced.
 
MTI’s goal is for all SGBV survivors who report to a clinic in Nakivale to be examined and treated within 72 hours of treatment, to receive psychosocial assessment and counseling in a private area of the clinic, and to be followed up with at home for the following three months. 
 
Combating Trafficking
 
Girls and women are also vulnerable to being exploited and forced into prostitution and pornography. Millions of girls are exploited in this manner every year, often lured or forced into these situations through false promises and limited knowledge of the risks. CCIH member Share and Care Nepal fights trafficking of women and girls for sex work by keeping local communities informed so women know the dangers of trafficking and are not tricked into situations where they will be exploited.
 
Through its Human Liberty Project, Share and Care Nepal works with an organized network of 27 women’s groups who advocate on women’s empowerment. The organization also conducts awareness programs, arranges counseling for women who have been exploited, helps poor and vulnerable girls continue their studies to avoid trafficking, and assists girls and women who become involved in programs to generate income so they are not as vulnerable to trafficking. Victims of trafficking will be re-integrated into the communities in three areas of the Makwanpur district by June 2013 through the project. 
 
Scope of the Global Problem 
 
At the time of the last global estimates, 150 million girls and 73 million boys under age 18 had experienced some form of sexual violence.  According to data collected by Together for Girls, a private public partnership that addresses violence against children, with a focus on sexual violence against girls, about one in three girls in Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Swaziland (and nearly one in 10 boys in Tanzania and Zimbabwe) experienced some form of sexual violence before the age of 18.  And equally disturbing, according to other studies, an estimated six out of 10 sexual assaults are committed against girls aged 15 and younger. This is likely to be underestimated because so many cases are never reported due to fear, stigma and discrimination. 
 
“Together for Girls is working to make violence against children unacceptable,” explains Michele Moloney-Kitts, managing director of Together for Girls. “Ending the silence and discrimination helps us to prevent the scourge of violence- both physical and sexual-against children, and especially girls, who are particularly vulnerable. We also need to ensure the right services are in place to help children who experience violence recover and go on to lead full and healthy lives.  This is a fundamental abuse of human rights and has serious short- and long-term consequences for the child and for the community at large.”
 
The consequences of this violence are dire. Girls who have been sexually abused are three times more likely to have an unintended pregnancy, and girls younger than 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women aged 20 to 24. Just as disturbing, girls who have been the victims of forced sex are at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections – not only directly related to a specific episode but also as a consequence of longer term mental health issues that result in reduced self-esteem and self-efficacy and increased risk behaviors.  Survivors are also more likely to be depressed and have high rates of substance abuse, high-risk behaviors and even suicide. And in spite of the advancements made in closing the education gap between girls and boys, girls who have been sexually abused are less likely to continue in school. 
 
What People of Faith Can Do 
 
Through its work with WWSO.US, IMA World Health has developed a Sermon Guide for Christian pastors in the U.S. to use to preach about SGBV in their churches. According to IMA, people can encourage their pastors to download and use this guide to preach about the issue and raise awareness about the high prevalence of SGBV both globally and locally. Download the guide
 
The We Will Speak Out U.S. organization also encourages people to support their local domestic violence shelter or contact their congressional representatives about legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act. Even just learning more about the issues is a step in the right direction, and then they can use what they learn to talk to their children and community members. 
 
Speak Out Sunday
 
Sunday, November 25 is the first day of the UN’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence and is also the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. “We picked this day to be WeWillSpeakOut.US’s “Speak Out Sunday” to encourage faith leaders and communities to preach about and discuss issues of sexual and gender-based violence both internationally and domestically,” said Santos. “We know this is a global issue, and one in our own communities as well. We believe the Church can and should do more to support survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, as well as take the fear and discomfort away from talking about these issues. If we cannot talk about sexual violence in our houses of worship, we give it more power.”
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 03 October 2012 18:36 )