Humanitarian agencies say
women are bearing the brunt of the conflict in the eastern DRC, facing
violence, including rape, as they try to care for their families.
Karumba is country director for the NGO Women for Women. From Bukavu in South Kivu Province, she
spoke to VOA English to Africa about the situation in eastern Congo. Most of the displaced are in North Kivu Province, which Karumba visits in the next few days.
know that more than one million…people have been displaced. The conditions in
which the women are living now in the camps are really not human because there
are some who have to walk for many hours to reach the closest IDP (internally
displaced persons) camp…camps which were not accessible for any humanitarian
support or assistance. There are children and women who can spend three to four
days without…food," she says.
they need more than food. Karumba says, "They need shelter. They need proper
sanitation and medicine because…when you are spending nights under the rain,
because this is the rainy season, without any assistance, without any proper
sanitation…they are having diseases…like cholera. They need access to
medication to prevent diarrhea."
of the women fleeing the fighting have been raped. "Women have to cross some
bush where there are some rebels…and gun people…. So women are being victims of
rape and this is ongoing. Not having access to exact data, but many women who
are coming to the camps have been denouncing that they have been victims of
even rape," she says.
for Women operates a number of programs in the eastern DRC, teaching vocational
skills and encouraging them to exercise their rights.
is, I think, the glue. This is the most important part of our program because
we believe that strong women build strong nations. If at this stage, we can
empower women on the grassroots (level) to know their rights, this can be the
beginning of a change because change must start somewhere. And if the voices of
these women on the ground are forgotten, then we cannot expect to have a strong
nation," she says.
example, she says that some women she's met don't know they inherit their
husband's property when he dies. "When the women are ignorant, they don't know
which institutions to go to claim…(their) right…. So it's like somebody who is
alive, but the person is already dead," she says.
She says the training
programs empower women to challenge Congolese authorities and say, "Look, we
can't continue like this. We have to be accountable to what is happening to the
women in the eastern Congo."