Experiences of sexual- and gender based violence (SGBV) is not uncommon among refugees from conflict zones. Especially in eastern Congo Kinshasa, it is well known that rape is being used as a weapon of war, a sort of psychological warfare. Refugees are also exposed during their journey from their home to Ethiopia. In addition it is not always possible to guarantee the security within and around refugee camps resulting in more cases of sexual- and gender based violence.
Medical and Psychosocial Support
Victims of sexual- and gender based violence might need both physical and medical treatment as well as psychosocial support and counseling. DICAC facilitates access to hospitals as well as provides long-term counseling. Earlier it was difficult for many people to attend counseling because of distance travel. Since the SGBV project started in September 2012 though, DICAC has been able to pay travel costs which have greatly increased the victims’ possibility to attend counseling.
DICAC also conducts awareness raising trainings on various themes such as prevention of sexual- and gender based violence, reproductive health, harmful traditional practices and HIV/AIDS. The trainings are held in cooperation with UNHCR, the US embassy and other donors’ organizations.
Financial Support and Income Generating Activities
The sexual- and gender based violence unit works with a special grant from the US embassy. The grant allows additional monetary support for the victims of SGBV as well as women headed families. DICAC also organizes skill trainings for these groups to support them in income generating activities. In addition DICAC has set up a revolving fund for these groups. From this fund it is possible to apply for a 5 000 birr loan to set up a small business. After three months the applicant should start paying back and in 1 to 5 years the whole loan will be returned to DICAC. A number of small businesses have been set up in this way generating important additional income for victims of SGBV and women headed families.
The sexual and gender based violence unit supports women’s association consisting of refugees. The women’s association gives extra support to women headed families and visit women that are alone. They also organize actions and celebrations during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, the International Women’s Day and the White Ribbon Campaign.
Successes and Limitations
The main success of the program is that it has managed to enable more victims of SGBV to attend counseling, decrease depressions and thus make it possible for them to better take care of their families. It has also managed to give many families in precarious situations an extra source of income through skill training and microloans. The main challenge at this moment is securing the funds for the program to be able to continue. DICAC would also like to extend the program to include general empowerment of women.
From September 2013 DICAC is also supporting victims of sexual- and gender based violence in the eastern camps around Jijiga. Two safe houses have been built where victims will receive clinical as well as psychosocial support. The victims stay in the safe house for a maximum of three months. After this period they will have the possibility of vocational training to increase their independency and general possibilities to sustain themselves.