“We felt like human beings again” asserts a survivor of sexual violence at the Panzi Hospital in Eastern DRC. Survivors arrive here with serious physical injuries and deep psychological scars. Some are accompanied by children who are painful reminders of the rape and trauma they suffered. They face numerous hurdles to putting their lives back together—stigma, isolation, and hopelessness. While many organizations provide support, only a few are able to offer the full range of services required—medical care, mental health support, legal aid and economic activities.
For nearly a month, I have not read a single newspaper without an article on the harassment of women in the public space and transport. In newspaper articles across the world, there is a brewing sentiment echoing the story of violence that a woman recently faced on a bus in Delhi.
I recently ran a fascinating workshop with colleagues at Intermón Oxfam (Oxfam’s Spanish affiliate) at which the different country programmes brought examples of change processes at work. One that particularly struck me was about our work in Colombia on sexual violence and conflict. Here’s the write up, jointly authored with Intermon’s Alejandro Matos.
The campaign began in 2009, jointly agreed by Intermón Oxfam and 9 national women’s and human rights organizations. The main aim was to make visible, at national and international level, the widespread use of sexual violence as a tactic by all sides in the armed conflict, and the gaps and failings in the responses of the Colombian state, in terms of prevention and punishment, the end of impunity and the care of women victims.
According to the United Nations, sexual violence is rampant in developing and emerging countries where poverty levels are at an all-time high and where social and economic inequity and inequality are widespread. In fact, in a World Health Organization report, 2002 alone saw nearly 150 million girls suffer the nightmare of sexual violence.