DR Congo

Women hold protest in eastern DRC displacement camp

News and Press Release
Originally published
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By Joe De Capua

Washington - A group of women held a small demonstration today in the eastern DRC at one of the camps for internally displaced people. The women called for greater efforts to bring peace and protect them from sexual violence.

Anjali Kwatra is head of news for the humanitarian agency ActionAid. She spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua.

"I'm in a camp called Ngunga One, which is just outside the town of Goma. And it's home to several thousand people. Most of them have been there for a few months or even a year. Some have recently arrived, fleeing the fighting that just flared up," she says.

Kwatra was on hand for the demonstration, which ActionAid helped organize. "It was a protest of women, who were demonstrating because a British government minister visited the camp. And they just basically wanted to...point out that women are bearing the brunt of the fighting and of the humanitarian situation. A lot of women are facing abuse. A lot of women have been raped by all sides. They really wanted to make their voices known. So they came out in force in the camp.... They were wearing signs saying things like we want peace and the international community must bring us peace," she says.

They spoke to British foreign minister Lord Malloch Brown. Kwatra says, "He responded and I think he's very aware of the situation they find themselves in."

She adds, "They want him to use his influence to get both sides to talk peace, to enter into negotiations.... One thing that they're all saying to us is that they want to go home. They don't want to be living in these camps. The conditions are pretty tough, especially as more and more people are coming in and fleeing the fighting. So, there's less food to go around. There's less shelter to go around.... And all they want is to go home."

She says that the women recognize that they're powerless in the camps and believe that the international community can help. "Women are the forgotten people here. They're the ones looking after the children. They're the ones queuing up for food and supplies. They're also the ones suffering abuse," she says.

Kwatra spoke to one woman who was raped, who told her, "This is happening to so many women, most of whom don't want to speak out because obviously it's a very stigmatized subject. And she was very brave. She's speaking about her experience, which is very traumatic. But she's saying there's a lot more women suffering in this way, and that they don't feel they can speak out.