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The east of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been engulfed in a brutal war since 1996. This is a war against women, where the most unimaginable violence is being perpetrated against women of all ages.
Masika is a survivor of this unimaginable violence and violation, but despite facing ongoing danger, she is tirelessly working to help others. She has set up a centre where other survivors can come for sanctuary. They have no where else to go, the majority of them have been rejected by their husbands, community, and even their own families.
“Many think that when they’re raped their lives are shattered, but we’d like them to know it’s not the end of the world”
WHAT MASIKA IS DOING
- Masika has built up and is continuing to grow a network of volunteers who search and rescue people who have been subjected to sexual violence.
- She has 14 volunteers from 14 village localities, who also inform and educate villagers, and find orphaned children.
- When found, these survivors and children are brought to Masika’s centre.
- Survivors are first taken to a Listening House, where Masika or another member of her team will give counselling and suggest ways of moving forward.
- During this time both the councillor and survivor share experiences.
- Masika keeps official records of each case.
- Some survivors come to the centre with nothing, so their immediate needs are met with clothes and other basic necessities.
- Survivors are taken to a local hospital for treatment, which can include drugs to counteract AIDS, and care for injuries from the violence.
- More serious cases will go to either the Heal Africa hospital in Goma, or Panzi in Bukavu.
A Place to Live
- After they are given immediate attention, Masika finds survivors a place to recuperate before she tries to help them return to their original home.
- Some survivors are so traumatised that Masika takes them into her own house until they are emotionally stronger.
- She has also adopted a number of orphans and children born of rape.
- Masika is passionate about education and tries to find ways of getting all the children at the centre to school.
- She pays for the education of a number of those orphaned or abandoned.
- Masika talks with the survivor’s family and their local chief to try and get them back to their original home.
- She also has a small team to help with these negotiations, which can be successful.
- She’s managed to persuade some husbands to take their wives back.
- For some survivors, returning home is not an option because negotiations fail.
- In these cases Masika will find them somewhere to live in the community.
- Once a week all the women from her group, those at the centre, and those in the community, whoare strong enough, get together to work on a plot of land.
- The crops that are produced from this work are eaten by those at the centre, and also sold atmarket.
- The main crops are beans and maize.
- It’s a chance for everyone with shared experiences to get together, work as a team, have a chat, and a laugh.
Her project was started with a tiny grant from Oxfam, just $250. With that she bought a field for everyone to work on, cultivating crops. With the profits they made, she has been able to build 47 houses with grass roofs (i.e. simple houses). She is hoping to find some more grants so they can rent another field. She has recently (2010) bought one with the help of an Amnesty Award and other donors.
This blog will tell the stories from Masika’s centre and the people she is helping.
Due to the nature of the subject, some may find the content of this site distressing.