Gender-Based Violence in the DRC: A Status Report
Marcy Hersh, Refugees International

New York, NYOn February 6, 2015, Marcy Hersh, Refugees International UN representative and senior advocate for women and girls’ rights, spoke to WFPG members and guests about gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She discussed the recent cuts in US funding of programs combatting gender-based violence (GBV), the implications of those decisions, and the activities of local NGOs in the eastern DRC. This event was co-hosted by the International Institute of Education and moderated by WFPG President Patricia Ellis.

In October 2014, Hersh visited the DRC. She described how over the last five years, the US investment has focused on holistic GBV programs, which include medical care, psychosocial support, and prevention activities. These programs have been extremely successful, with 24,000 women benefitting from medical care and 40,000 women accessing psychosocial support. However, Hersh remarked that the most extraordinary effect of these programs is the fact that women in the Congo know about them, trust and understand the purpose of them, and seek them out when gender-based violence occurs. Such programs see that women are empowered to retake control of their lives and return to their communities.

Unfortunately, cuts to GBV funding have resulted in the US decision to change its approach—just when the holistic GBV programs were starting to generate successful results. In total, the US cuts will reduce funding from approximately $71 million since 2002 to $7 million over the next five years. She said this comes as a great surprise because the US has been a leader in combatting gender-based violence both in the DRC and around the world. For the last ten years, the US was the single largest donor on gender-based violence to the DRC. Additionally, Hersh explained that the DRC is a country that is synonymous for many people with the idea of conflict-related sexual violence, earning the epithets “rape capital of the world” and “worst place to be a woman.”

Hersh described this new approach, known as GBV integration, and contrasted it with the holistic approach, also known as stand-alone programming. She emphasized how stand-alone programming focuses directly on GBV, while integrated programming is slipped into another sector’s programming. Hersh detailed the effects of the funding cuts, including how a clinic that treated at least ten women a day is now boarded up and closed, some women will have to travel eight days by foot to receive help and will now be charged for the services. As conditions for all Congolese continue to get tougher and women become increasingly vulnerable, assistance from the US is simultaneously decreasing.

Aside from the US, other donor countries and the United Nations are also have GBV programs in the DRC. Hersh commended the UK’s Department for International Development for its innovative GBV prevention work focused on creating small projects in local communities in order to understand what is actually working. The UN, in contrast, has adopted a new coordination strategy that organizes humanitarian actors into working groups in order to address gender-based violence. Hersh was more critical of this comprehension strategy because its working groups do not communicate well with their DRC counterparts. She told a story of how when she asked DRC organizations if they spoke to their counterparts at the UN, they responded that they had no way of reaching and would welcome something as basic as an email listserv.


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Marcy Hersh of Refugees International speaks to
the WFPG about gender-based violence in the DRC


Sarah Willcox, Director of the Scholar Rescue Fund for
the International Institute of Education welcomes
WFPG members and guests


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Deputy Permanent Representative of Montenegro
Ivana Pajević listens to the discussion


Noella Coursaris Musunka of the Georges
Malaika Foundation asks a question


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Natacha Weiss of Refugees International during the Q&A


Audience members during the program


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Marcy Hersh speaks with members
and guests after the event