A group of women held a
small demonstration today in the eastern DRC at one of the camps for internally
displaced people. The women called for greater efforts to bring peace and
protect them from sexual violence.
Kwatra is head of news for the humanitarian agency ActionAid. She spoke to VOA
English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua.
in a camp called Ngunga One, which is just outside the town of Goma. And it's
home to several thousand people. Most of them have been there for a few months
or even a year. Some have recently arrived, fleeing the fighting that just
flared up," she says.
was on hand for the demonstration, which ActionAid helped organize. "It was a
protest of women, who were demonstrating because a British government minister
visited the camp. And they just basically wanted to…point out that women are
bearing the brunt of the fighting and of the humanitarian situation. A lot of
women are facing abuse. A lot of women have been raped by all sides. They
really wanted to make their voices known. So they came out in force in the
camp…. They were wearing signs saying things like we want peace and the
international community must bring us peace," she says.
spoke to British foreign minister Lord Malloch Brown. Kwatra says, "He
responded and I think he's very aware of the situation they find themselves
adds, "They want him to use his influence to get both sides to talk peace, to
enter into negotiations…. One thing that they're all saying to us is that they
want to go home. They don't want to be living in these camps. The conditions
are pretty tough, especially as more and more people are coming in and fleeing
the fighting. So, there's less food to go around. There's less shelter to go
around…. And all they want is to go home."
says that the women recognize that they're powerless in the camps and believe
that the international community can help. "Women are the forgotten people
here. They're the ones looking after the children. They're the ones queuing up
for food and supplies. They're also the ones suffering abuse," she says.
Kwatra spoke to one woman who was
raped, who told her, "This is happening to so many women, most of whom don't
want to speak out because obviously it's a very stigmatized subject. And she
was very brave. She's speaking about her experience, which is very traumatic.
But she's saying there's a lot more women suffering in this way, and that they
don't feel they can speak out."