Walter James (SOS Femme en Danger – SOSFED): Walter graduated in 2006 from the University of Minnesota. Following college, he worked on international development in Haiti and Senegal, and studied human rights and international development in Senegal, Costa Rica, and Morocco. Walter first visited Eastern Congo as a 2009 Peace Fellow for The Advocacy Project, where he documented the work of civil society organizations such as SOS Femmes en Danger, Arche d’Alliance, and Tunza Mazingira. The following year, he graduated from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy with a Master’s degree in Public Policy.

UNFPA data-mapping project: Are you in?

02 Apr

In my last blog entry, I wrote about a UNFPA data-mapping project that is being undertaken here in the Kivus. The goal of the data-mapping project is to provide better assistance to survivors of sexual violence; if one NGO assists a survivor, the information provided by registering her in the global database will make it easier for her to receive other forms of assistance, be they medical, psychosocial, judicial, or socioeconomic. In addition, the information gathered can clarify where attacks against women are concentrated, and are being perpetrated by whom, thus helping prevention and advocacy efforts.

How this project works: Each NGO that receives a survivor interviews her and records information on her physical, mental, and emotional state, on forms provided by UNFPA. In addition, details of the incident are recorded, including date, location, and the identity/affiliation of the perpetrator. The “first-response” NGO (the one filling out the form) records the type of assistance they gave the survivor. Some biographical information is also recorded, which can be useful in identifying the kinds of assistance a survivor may require. Each assisted survivor also receives a unique ID number that contains information on the location of the incident, as well as the first NGO to assist the survivor. All this information contributes to a global database that will give all involved a clearer picture of the crisis of rape in Eastern Congo. It should be noted that the privacy of survivors is not affected by being added to this database.

The reach of this project acknowledges that rape does more than damage the physical and mental health of a woman; there are a variety of serious effects that a survivor must endure after being violated. NGOs in South Kivu tend to be fragmented, and survivors frequently lack a complete source of assistance. In addition, MONUSCO has noted a high level of repeat reporting by local NGOs, complicating matters.

SOS FED works primarily in the domain of psychosocial assistance and socioeconomic assistance, with perhaps a heavier emphasis on the former. SOS FED shelters women, helping them regain their mental and emotional health without having to deal with judgmental communities and restrictive customs. In addition, SOS FED teaches risk-reduction techniques through group cultivation, which has the double benefit of helping women reduce their chances of being attacked and providing them with income. An NGO such as Arche d’Alliance focuses on judicial representation and the protection of human rights through building civil society. The various hospitals and clinics throughout Fizi treat women for the physical trauma of rape and its aftereffects. So, as you can see, everyone has something to do, and coordination is necessary in order to get things done.

In all, the assistance provided by SOS FED remains the most holistic, yet practical, that I have seen in South Kivu. However, there is always something missing, especially for a small, local NGO like SOS FED. SOS FED particularly lacks capacity in the areas of judicial representation and medical services.

The center staff members refer women to nearby hospitals or clinics if they require immediate attention for fistulas or infections stemming from their attack. In addition, each center has basic medical supplies for minor illnesses and injuries. However, this is not nearly enough for the kinds of physical trauma that beneficiaries may be suffering from; almost all of the women at our centers complain of continual lower abdominal pain and sometimes irregular bleeding. Nonetheless, arriving at a hospital does not always guarantee effective treatment, as the cost of good medical care can be too expensive for our beneficiaries.

Our center staff also instructs beneficiaries on their rights, but do not have the resources or training needed to represent these women in court. Granted, the Congolese judicial system has a long way to go before it can be described as effective in handing out punitive sentences to offenders. However, pressure applied to civil and military authorities can make a difference, especially if there is a well-documented, public source of information on incidents of sexual violence.

This is where the UNFPA data-mapping project becomes useful for SOS FED. Once a survivor has a dossier created by the SOS FED staff, it becomes much easier for her to receive judicial or medical support, should she require it. Being registered in the database means that a survivor can receive free medical treatment at a hospital or clinic; all SOS FED has to do is get her there. If a survivor requires extensive treatment for severe trauma, SOS FED can always coordinate with PSVS to send the survivor to Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, where (if accepted), she can receive some of the best medical care in the Kivus. Arche d’Alliance, with its large resources, institutional knowledge, and national network, can use the information provided in the database to produce human rights reports and put pressure on local officials, national authorities, and the international community to address the issue of sexual violence in the Kivus.

The local CTLVS and Arche d’Alliance remain the focal points for the UNFPA data-mapping project in Uvira and Fizi Territories. This past week, Amisi and I arranged for training for our staff on completing dossiers for each beneficiary. Arche will make sure that each center has a sufficient number of forms at its disposal, as well as visit our center frequently to pick up the dossiers. Further networking will ensure that we can increase the level of assistance for our beneficiaries through coordination with other organizations. There is a caveat: the success of the project depends on more than participation from SOS FED; many different actors, including UNFPA, have to come through if survivors of sexual violence are to see a noticeable improvement in assistance.

Overall, participation in this project should ensure a better, more complete standard of care for SOS FED beneficiaries. L’Union fait La Force.


Posted Apr 2nd, 2011

1 Comment

  • JYJ

    April 3, 2011


    Good work, Walter!

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