MenEngage Africa (MEA) partners in East Africa and faith-based community organisations are starting to meet today (18 April 2016) for a two-day workshop on addressing sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls in conflict and post-conflict settings on the African continent.
In conflict countries, women are the worst affected. They bear the brunt of it because when war comes, they often become targets of sexual violence, their husbands and children may be killed – leaving them without support, and they are themselves the majority of casualties of war. Women make up 80% of those who have to flee their homes.
The objectives of the meeting are to do the following:
- Increase awareness of conflicts past and present in Africa and their effects on the citizens of these countries, especially women and girls.
- To build capacity on how to conduct advocacy in and outside conflict zones and how to report and document gender-based violence (GBV) in resource and infrastructure constrained conflict zones. Part of this will involve a high level meeting with key government officials in Rwanda on the Burundi conflict.
- To capacitate MEA partners on how to mobilise the faith-based sector on strategies to engage in conflict and post-conflict interventions meaningfully.
- To familiarise participants on international protocols related to conflict and post conflict, including UN Resolution 1325 and its implication for our work.
- To draw on and share experiences and resources from the faith-based sector to showcase interventions by faith-based organisations (FBOs) in conflict and post-conflict situations.
- To advocate for more comprehensive engagement between MEA country networks and the FBO sector on conflict and post-conflict situations.
The meeting, which is held in Kigali, Rwanda, takes place at a crucial time in the country, as it’s currently marking 100 days of commemoration of the genocide 22 years ago that killed an estimated one million Tutsis. The scars of the 1994 genocide still run deep.
At the same time, in neighbouring Burundi, the political violence that has claimed over 400 civilians’ lives and driven about 200 000 people out of the country to seek refuge in Rwanda and other neighbouring countries in the East African region remains unresolved. The political crisis follows the decision by President Pierre Nkurunziza to forcefully take a third term in office, in spite of vehement opposition to his move. Women, in particular, are at the receiving end of this violence, with the United Nations reporting in January that it had documented cases of sexual violence with a pattern of security forces allegedly entering the victims’ houses, separating the women and raping or gang-raping them.