Throughout the DRC, ravaged by over two decades of war, the work is difficult and dangerous. In certain areas the female human rights defender is seen as opposing traditional customs; her family tries to force her to abandon her work, for her safety and theirs.
Counselors for Women’s Synergy for Victims of Sexual Violence (Synergie des Femmes pour les Victimes des Violences Sexuelles, SFVS) work alone in remote, rural regions, tasked with identifying victims, passive and active listening, and assisting survivors’ reintegration into society.
SFVS co-founder and coordinator Justine Masika Bihamba speaks movingly of the personal cost endured—twice—by one SFVS adviser: “First, she was raped by six soldiers who had already killed her husband, raped her four daughters, and stolen their possessions. Second, returning from an activity creating awareness of sexual violence, she saw a woman hanging from a tree. Attackers had raped her and put a piece of wood into her vagina. The adviser could not save the victim, as she (the victim) was unable to walk: she died from the torture she had suffered. The adviser had to bury her alone—and she was then raped by four rapists from the same group over seven hours. The contribution of female human rights defenders throughout the world is exceptional.”
That contribution needs—and deserves—support.
Which is where Donor Direct Action comes in.