Synergie des Femmes pour les Victimes des Violences Sexuelles (SFVS)
Based in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, SFVS protects, defends and educates women affected by sexual violence.
For more than twenty years, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been at war, leaving nearly six million dead. Both soldiers and armed rebels wield rape as a weapon, and recent studies find an increase in rapes by civilians in the new, commonplace prevalence of sexual assault. A 2011 study published in The American Journal of Public Health reported 1,100 rapes daily; more than 400,000 women and girls age 15 to 49 were raped during one 12-month period in 2006-2007—revealing sexual violence against women is 26 times more common than UN reports had shown for the DRC, arguably the worst place in the world to be a woman.
To address this catastrophe, the organization Synergie des Femmes pour les Victimes des Violences Sexuelles-SFVS (Women's Synergy for Victims of Sexual Violence) formed in 2002. Based in North Kivu province, SFVS unites the experiential skills of 35 Congolese organizations, working in three sections: psycho-social, medical, and legal defense.
The medical section cares for sexual-violence survivors: surgical repairs of fistulas, HIV testing, and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The psycho-social section has established 20 "listening houses" for victims of sexual violence; it holds seminars on the effects of sexual violence and trains counselors in psychological trauma work and family mediation. To help survivors reintegrate into society, SFVS provides them with income generating skills: dyeing techniques, sewing, braiding, livestock herding, and farming.
The legal defense section lobbies for equal justice and coordinates legal assistance for victims of violence. It has also trained judges on sexual violence law, and initiated a campaign for establishing tribunals of international and Congolese judges to try high-rank military offenders for sexual violence and war crimes in DRC. SFVS broadcasts awareness messages on national radio and TV, and organizes conferences on Congolese law and the societal effects of rape.