The Trade Facilitation Project in the Great Lakes Region – Projet de Facilitation du Commerce dans la Région des Grands Lacs (PFCGL) have been building and improving roads along the DR Congo’s borders and its neighbors in the Great Lakes Regions. As local civilians have been hired to work on the infrastructure projects, HEAL Africa has been selected as the organization with the expertise to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. Stakeholders are being trained to minimize the risks of negative impact on the surrounding communities during the construction process.
The series of training sessions, which began at the end of January, focused on the prevention of gender-based violence, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation, was launched in three border sites of DR Congo, including Bukavu, Bunagana and Kasindi.
Staff of the Chinese company, CFHEC, members of the operational order (DGM –Department in charge of the migration, DGDA –Customs Service, OCC (in charge controlling the entries in DRC), PNHF –service in charge of hygiene, SQUAV and the Border Police Department), members of associations of cross-border traders and women’s organizations around borders, all gathered around this same mission: to acquire GBV risk prevention strategies and measures during the construction of border infrastructures and in daily border activities. Approximately 356 people from different stakeholders in the PFCGL project benefited from this training.
Raising collective awareness about GVB through training
The World Bank, a partner organization, emphasized in their 2018 report that ‘no country, no community, or economy can realize its potential or meet the challenges of the 21st century without the full and equal participation of women, men, girls, and boys.’ Their gender equality focused projects across the globe have shown that consistent activism has a lasting impact on the daily lives of entire communities programs are integrated and can bridge the traditional gaps between men and women.
With funds from the International Development Association (IDA) –part of the World Bank group– and under the facilitation of HEAL Africa through the PFCGL program, the training established four groups within each site. Manager of the HEAL Africa Legal Clinic and training facilitator in Bunagana, Darlène Kahambu believes that with proper “training in the prevention of GBV, participants will not fail to positively influence the Congolese border context during the execution of the works, and even after. ”
Deo (alias), participant and trader from Kasindi thinks that “this opportunity to be trained on the prevention of GBV comes at the right moment because GBV matters have drawn so many customs officers at the Kasindi border in terrible situations.” His experience is similar to that of another local customs officer, who discussed the high risk of getting involved in GBV cases in border areas.
Participation, the best methodology for transmission of information
Placed in audiences of 29 people, beneficiaries of the training were, in each site, subjected to a pre-test which allowed facilitators to gauge the extension of their knowledge on the issue of GBV and, thus, orient the training modules accordingly. Various themes on gender and sex, power and status, types and forms of GBV, laws relating to the protection of children and women in DRC, and many other themes were developed during the 11 days of training.
Gender-based violence carries a devastating series of long-lasting physical, emotional, psychological, social, economic and legal consequences; especially traumatic for the survivors. They destroy entire futures, take away the dignity of its victims and dismantles the fabric of society. “This training at the borders will allow involved people to better understand the essence of the rules, which will govern them during the execution of the project”, specifies Dr William Bonane, trainer and program manager of HEAL Africa.