A gender-based violence survivor studies with her literacy tutor. She learned to read and write in USAID's Tushinde Ujeuri: Comprehensive Services to Address GBV Project's literacy classes. 'I am going to read to learn my rights,' she says. (Photo by: Paul Jeffrey) 

16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence: Cultivating change

    Committed to ending gender-based violence

    Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is a public health crisis around the world. The World Health Organization estimates that as many as 1 in 3 women globally are affected by physical or sexual violence, and a lack of empowerment, autonomy, education and opportunity for women and girls negatively affects both their health and that of their children and families.

    To bring light to this crisis, activists at the first Women's Global Leadership Institute in 1991 established the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. Since its inception, 16 Days of Activism has grown into an international campaign that takes place each year beginning on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and continuing until 10 December, Human Rights Day.

    The global theme for this 30th anniversary year is “Orange the world: End violence against women now!” Corus organization IMA World Health has integrated SGBV interventions and behavior change communication around women’s empowerment into broader health programs for more than a decade, focusing primarily in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). These 16 Days of Activism, we reflect on progress made thus far and recommit ourselves to continuing the fight against SGBV around the world.

    IMA is the lead implementer of the USAID’s Tushinde Ujeuri: Comprehensive Services to Address GBV Project in Eastern Congo, where years of insecurity and conflict alongside deeply rooted gender inequities and harmful cultural practices have contributed to high rates of SGBV. These, in turn, cause severe medical, psychological, economic and social suffering for survivors, their families and communities. Tushinde Ujeuri is a comprehensive community-based program designed to help communities respond to and prevent SGBV. In Swahili, its name means “We Overcome Violence.”

    "The IMA World Health led consortium of local and international partners has been at the forefront of countering gender-based violence in eastern DRC. The approach of Tushinde Ujeuri is not only to prevent and respond to GBV, but to reintegrate GBV survivors back into their communities through holistic medical, psychosocial, legal, and socio-economic support, disrupting the broader cycle of GBV."
    - Noshaba Zafar, Senior Technical Advisor for Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

    Tushinde Ujeuri builds on the highly successful USAID Ushindi Project (2010-2017), through which IMA provided SGBV prevention and response activities in highest risk areas of Eastern Congo. IMA’s holistic approach to addressing SGBV incorporates social and financial recovery, in addition to medical care and psychosocial support. Ushindi directly assisted nearly 30,000 survivors of SGBV from 2010 to 2017. In a recent peer-reviewed article, IMA staff and experts in public health reflected on the success of the Ushinde program stating, “The consortium provided a comprehensive package of services to SGBV survivors, focusing on medical, emotional, psychological, legal, and socio-economic needs.”

    GBV Survivor writes on blackboard carrying her baby wrapped in a blanket on her back

    A GBV survivor demonstrates writing her name on a blackboard in Goma, DRC. The Tushinde Ujeuri project builds resilience among survivors through outreach, connection to support services and counseling & literacy classes. (Photo by: Paul Jeffrey)

    Reaching marginalized communities

    The Tushinde project has developed a unique expertise in advocating for protection through a human rights-based approach for marginalized groups including LGBTQI+ individuals. More than 80 LGBTQI+ community members have so far been reached with GBV prevention and response awareness. In the last year, 126 members of supported groups were sensitized to LGBTQI+ rights, totaling 150 reached since the beginning of the project. The Tushinde project continues to reach communities with GBV prevention messages, with 1,183,083 individuals having received messages to date and more planned for the fifth and final year of the project.

    In addition to invaluable behavior-change communication, IMA is also meeting essential physical needs of survivors of SGBV. The USAID/BHA-funded SGBV Response through Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) Kit Procurement and Distribution project works in 10 provinces most affected by SGBV across the DRC. These efforts have been instrumental in the response efforts to SGBV issues in the country in the last three years as they have been the main source of PEP Kits without which, SGBV survivors in the targeted areas would likely have not been able to access these essential lifesaving drugs.

    Comprehensive community-based programming

    Beyond quantitative results, staff have seen change directly in their own communities. Jean Le Bon Bahiga, Nutrition/TB Manager in DRC shares, “I am a male champion of positive masculinity for the DRC since 2017. I know to share my experience with my friends and acquaintances on gender-based violence prevention.” From staff education across programs grows cultural change and safer communities.

    SGBV is a crisis for all people of all genders. Corus organizations remain strongly committed to preventing, mitigating and responding to SGBV in the DRC and beyond. This is essential work. As Waheeb Sultan, Program Coordinator and Technical Focal Point for Yemen reminds us, “SGBV prevention and response are life-saving interventions.” We will continue to work with local partners, communities, health facilities and governments to save lives and end sexual and gender-based violence now.