People for Peace: Supporting Sexual Abuse Victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo

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Eastern DRC has experienced years of conflict and instability, and many people have been forced to flee their homes, making them more vulnerable to exploitation.

Delu Lusambia is the project manager and coordinator of SYAM, (which stands for Siku ya Mazingira in Kiswahili), a local civil society organization in eastern DRC that carries out projects for the UN Trust Fund to support victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.*

“My organisation, SYAM, has been addressing the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel since 2007. At the time, many people in the DRC were internally displaced due to conflict and sought refuge near MONUSCO camps in North Kivu and the eastern provinces. †

They were out of work, with no means to stay in their lives. As a result, many women and girls exchanged sexual favors with UN peacekeepers for money and food. Economic fragility and power inequality can expose people to the risk of sexual misconduct.

From 2007 to 2016, SYAM conducted surveys and heard many testimonials about sexual exploitation. We shared the results of the surveys and proposed projects to support and empower women and girls in collaboration with MONUSCO.

We realized the urgent need to support victims, especially those who have had children born of sexual abuse by peacekeepers.

Photo by the UN/Sylvain Liechti

A UN peacekeeping patrol passes people on the road in the Beni region of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

That is why we have established vocational training centers for women and girls where we train them in confectionery, dressmaking, bread making, hairdressing and agriculture.

I am proud of the impact we are making. First, our on-site observation shows that the incidence of sexual exploitation and abuse has decreased. A large number of beneficiaries have also been trained through our projects. I am delighted that a total of 375 beneficiaries have acquired essential skills to support their lives between 2020 and 2021.

We also see changes in culture and attitudes. SYAM works with local community networks to raise awareness among communities in eastern DRC about sexual exploitation and abuse and how to report these abuses. Now reporting such cases has become a common practice. Whenever they see suspicious activity, communities voice their concerns to MONUSCO.”

May 29 is International Day of UN Peacekeepers - a day to pay tribute to our uniformed and civilian personnel.

United Nations

* Trust fund projects are funded by 24 UN member states and implemented in collaboration with development actors, including United Nations agencies and civil society.

More than a million peacekeepers have served under the UN flag, but they are not the only ones pursuing peace. Peacekeeping is made possible through strong and diverse partnerships, a theme emerging this year on International Peacekeepers Day.



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