Protecting Communities in the DRC: Understanding gender dynamics and empowering women and men

Please download to get full document.

View again

of 15
All materials on our website are shared by users. If you have any questions about copyright issues, please report us to resolve them. We are always happy to assist you.
Information Report
Category:

Others

Published:

Views: 0 | Pages: 15

Extension: PDF | Download: 0

Share
Related documents
Description
Armed conflict has devastated large swathes of the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1997. Civilians in many parts of the eastern provinces still face constant threats of forced displacement, sexual violence, abduction, and extortion, not only from militia groups but in many cases from those who are mandated to protect them. Oxfam's protection programme in the DRC aims to strengthen the ability of communities to advocate for their rights, including the right to protection from violence and exploitation. Evaluation of the programme's impact shows that in a situation where so many people's rights are abused and violated, empowering women often means including and empowering men in the humanitarian response too.
Transcript
  GENDER EQUALITY IN EMERGENCIES OCTOBER 2012 Oxfam Programme Insights   www.oxfam.org.uk/policyandpractice   PROTECTING COMMUNITIES IN THE DRC   Understanding gender dynamics and empowering women and men Pauline (name has been changed to protect her identity), 16, with her 14-month old son at their home, pictured in Dungu, Orientale Province, DRC. Many of IDPs now settled in Dungu, like Pauline, are traumatised from attacks on their villages and families. Pauline was kidnapped by the LRA and spent two years as a 'wife' to an LRA soldier, himself kidnapped aged 10. © Simon Rawles/Oxfam Armed conflict has devastated large swathes of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 1997. Civilians in many parts of the eastern provinces  –  men, women, boys and girls  –  still face constant threats of forced displacement, sexual violence, abduction, and extortion, not only from militia groups, but in many cases from those who are mandated to protect them. Deep-seated attitudes and beliefs continue to perpetuate discrimination and violence against women. Oxfam’s protection programme in the DRC aims to strengthen the ability of communities to advocate for their rights, including the right to protection from violence and exploitation. Evaluation of the programme’s impact shows that in a situ ation where so many people’s rights are abused and violated, empowering women often means including and empowering men in the humanitarian reponse too. It is also vital to take a sophisticated, context- specific approach to gender and women’s rights, considering short -term, immediate needs, and longer-term strategic needs together.   2 Protecting Communities in the DRC INTRODUCTION   Since 1987, armed conflict has devastated large swathes of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The situation is fluid and, while exact numbers are disputed, it is clear that hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives, and many survivors have fled their homes to other provinces or to neighbouring countries. Civilians in many parts of the eastern provinces in particular face constant threats of forced displacement, sexual violence, abduction, and extortion. They are regularly terrorised, not only by militia groups, but often by the police and armed forces mandated to protect them. The conflict continues to stifle the country’s development, particularly standards of education and health, the development of strong civil society groups, and gender equality. The average life expectancy is 48 years for women and only 46 for men, and has barely changed since 1990. 1  Weak state authority, the illegal exploitation of mineral wealth, and the ease with which weapons enter the country has helped fuel cycles of violence, with women, men and children caught in the crossfire. Civilians in eastern DRC in particular have been targeted by armed militia. The long-term instability and insecurity has left virtually no industry and limited opportunities for education and jobs. This provides an economic incentive for many young men and boys to take up arms, although they are also often forcibly recruited. Despite the government approving a progressive sexual violence law in 2006 that includes a broad definition of sexual and gender-based violence, women and men are frequently subject to sexual violence. Women face many inequalities in the DRC. They play a very limited role in public life and constantly confront deep-seated attitudes and beliefs that perpetuate discrimination and gender-based violence. Following the 2006 elections, women accounted for only 9.4 per cent of seats in the national Parliament. 2  The adult literacy rate (age 15 and over) is 65 per cent for the whole population, but 56 per cent for women compared with 78 per cent for men. 3  Women are also under-represented in paid employment and are often denied rights of inheritance. In 2011, the maternal mortality rate was 670 per 100,000 live births. 4   Men and boys account for the majority of deaths that occur during fighting, 5  while women and girls may be more affected by the broader impact of conflict, including in the aftermath of war, when repercussions are still being felt. In many societies, they will be made more vulnerable to the negative effects of conflict due to their unequal status and limited access to services and opportunities.   Protecting communities in the DRC 3 Oxfam in the DRC Oxfam has been working in the DRC since 1961 and has programmes focusing on water and sanitation, food security and livelihoods, public health, advocacy, education, gender equality, and protection. In 2006  – 7, Oxfam made a strategic commitment to address protection issues more explicitly and systematically. The programme in the DRC aims to strengthen the capacity of communities at risk to advocate for their rights and for protection from violence and exploitation, and to improve survivors’ access to follow -up care and support (referral). The field programme is combined with international advocacy and campaigning to ensure that civilians’ voices are heard, and to hold those in power  –  government leaders and officials, police, and the army  –  to account. As it will be some time before the state can properly fulfil its responsibility to protect civilians, Oxfam also supports communities to prevent and respond to abuse and to access referral services in a safe and timely manner. Understanding gender dynamics within communities Deep-rooted gender inequality is present in communities due to patriarchy and disparate power relations. Oxfam carries out annual protection surveys of people living in the conflict-affected areas of eastern DRC, including North and South Kivu and Province Orientale. These surveys paint a picture of violence and abuse that is highly gendered in terms of its targeting and impact, both in the short term and longer term. There are many similarities in how men and women assess their overall insecurity, but the causes of insecurity and the type of threats they face  –  abduction, murder, arbitrary arrest, sexual violence, illegal checkpoints, forced labour  –  are often different. Through these means, state and non-state parties continue to manipulate and abuse civilians in order to assert their control. The conflict is very fluid, and although some areas may become more stable, men and women experience this change differently. Even in areas in close proximity, the short and long-term impacts of violence and abuse on gender dynamics can vary widely.   4 Protecting Communities in the DRC The shock of conflict, social turmoil, and reorganisation, coupled with the interventions of external actors such as humanitarian agencies, presents both an opportunity and a threat to the goal of greater gender equality. Humanitarian agencies need to have a sophisticated understanding of gender, based on a sound analysis of local gender inequalities and social relations, to ensure that, as a minimum, their work does not have a negative impact on gender equality or undermine people’s rights. The armed conflict in the DRC, with its relentless and brutal targeting of civilians, is exceptionally damaging, and external interventions must be highly sensitised to the context to avoid inadvertent negative consequences. Conflict and social breakdown opens up opportunities to challenge traditional gender roles as people develop, adapt and even adopt new identities.  A strong gender analysis can enable humanitarian responses to go further, and build on the changes inherent in conflict and social transformation to bring about greater gains for women’s rights and gender equality. Political and social transformation rarely happens without some form of conflict, and conflict in itself is not necessarily negative until it turns to violence. Understanding how gender roles interact with the context is key to contributing to positive change that is sustainable. Not understanding this, or adopting a simplistic approach, risks doing significant harm. Humanitarian organisations may be able to contribute significantly to positive outcomes that promote gender equality by respectfully treating men and women as rights-holders as well as acknowledging the threats of sexual and other violence that they face, and providing significant ‘ safe ’  spaces for women where they can be free from social constraints that prevent them from speaking in front of men. This paper outlines the approach to gender taken by Oxfam’s protection programme in the DRC. It explains how the community-led nature of the programme has enabled women and men to address short-term protection needs as a priority, but also to tackle long-term barriers to women’s rights without  this being seen as a threat to men. It describes how the programme was implemented, through protection committees with equal numbers of male and female members and women’s forums  where women could talk freely among women, and promoting access to referral services. It then presents the programme’s achievements , including a reduction in sexual violence, domestic violence, and early marriage in some communities. Men and women worked together to change attitudes and beliefs and the programme’s approach emphasi sed sexual violence as everyone’s concern, not just a problem for women. Finally, it makes recommendations for other programmes considering similar work. It argues that Oxfam’s aim of ’putting poor women’s rights at the heart of all we do’ is, in some sit uations, only possible when we address men’s rights in parallel. Effects of the conflict on women and men The war in eastern DRC is notorious for the high levels of sexual violence and brutality inflicted by those involved in the fighting. A wide range of abuses are being carried out against men, women, boys, and girls, by armed actors, bandits and criminals, and in some cases by community members against each other. Men are more at risk of being killed, tortured or abducted, used for forced labour, or imprisoned. We are frequently told that women are often less likely than men to be abducted or killed when they go to the fields, but they are at high risk of rape  –  which often leads to rejection by their husbands. The survival strategies used to avoid these risks include: choosing not to go to the fields or market, which has serious effects on well-being and livelihoods; sending women to do such work (which may have other costs, as women tend to face higher taxes or other unofficial barriers at market); or submitting to an assault, which, while it may reduce the degree of violence used, can destroy a person’s sense of self-worth. Further coping strategies described by communities were working and moving in groups, and limiting movement, as well as wearing more layers of clothing in certain areas.
Recommended
View more...
We Need Your Support
Thank you for visiting our website and your interest in our free products and services. We are nonprofit website to share and download documents. To the running of this website, we need your help to support us.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support.

No, Thanks