In eastern Congo, the prevalence of rape and other sexual violence is described as the worst in the world. HEAL Africa works with communities in eastern Congo to reverse the conditions that cause rape. We are working with men and women who want change for the people of their country. We’re tackling it in neighborhoods, in schools, in parishes, in courts of law, in clinics and hospitals. Wamama Simameni (Women Stand Up Together) safe houses are centers for HEAL Africa programs, activities, and resources.
At these safe houses, women can find refuge and help when in crisis, and long-term support and resources as they work to build new communities in the aftermath of the war. They are managed by the women they serve, supported by the staff of HEAL Africa in Goma. They function as the center of a radiating network of initiatives that provide the framework of community; they build capacity among women through education, providing resources such as income-generating grants and micro-loans, teaching skills like sewing and making bread or soap, by and connecting women to vocational and agricultural opportunities. Trained counselors seek out survivors of rape and other violence and refer them to the appropriate medical and counseling programs. After treatment at the main HEAL Africa hospital or partner clinic, women are given a Fresh Start Kit that includes what they need to start a small business. On their way home, they connect with the safe house closest to their village where they receive support in building a new future for them and their family.
Congo´s women have been portrayed as victims in an endless war. HEAL Africa is working to build and support communities of women in Congo with the social, physical, spiritual, and economic autonomy necessary to create a new social fabric in war-torn communities. They are creating a new future for the Congo. In a fragmented postwar society, with many women living on their own, the traditional roles and structures have changed. Women are assuming new responsibilities and taking on new roles. HEAL Africa has brought women together who have suffered the same issues: widowhood, rape, the need to support their children alone. Now they are discovering the strength they have in working together.
When women are empowered, the whole community benefits.