Female Empowerment in DR Congo

In January 2014 PRIO researchers Gudrun Østby and Ragnhild Nordås went on a two-week fieldtrip to Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu, DRC. The main purpose of the visit was to launch the new collaborative project, “Female Empowerment in Eastern DRC”, funded by the Research Council of Norway. This project is based on a partnership between PRIO and the International Centre for Advanced Research and Training (ICART), which is a collaborative initiative between researchers from the Panzi Hospital, Panzi Foundation DRC, and the Université Evangelique en Afrique in Bukavu, DRC.

The project focuses on how survivors of SGBV can be empowered and reintegrated into society through socioeconomic support programs, and explores the link between armed conflict and intimate partner sexual violence. Our methodological approach combines surveys and in-debth interviews. In addition to the thematic research, there is a separate work package devoted to research capacity building.

In Bukavu, the PRIO researchers and the local research team met with representatives from five support programmes that are all linked to socioeconomic reintegration and empowerment of survivors of SGBV. Also, they visited “City of Joy”, a center for healing and training for survivors of gender-based violence. After six months in City of Joy, women are reintegrated into their communities and by returning home they commit to fight for self-sufficiency, financial independence and freedom.

The gate of City of Joy, a center for healing, and training for survivors of gender-based violence.

The gate of City of Joy, a center for healing, and training for survivors of gender-based violence. (Photo: Gudrun Østby)

Several meetings were held between the PRIO researchers and the principal investigators from Congolese project team to discuss the focus and design of the project and develop a detailed plan of action for the thematic work packages. On 24 January Gudrun Østby and Ragnhild Nordås held a one-day workshop on academic writing, publishing in academic journals and grants proposal writing at the Université Evangelique en Afrique (UEA). This was the first of a series of trainings planned for building local research capacity.

At the end of the stay the PRIO researchers went on a field visit to Kavumu, some 30 km north of Bukavu to visit one of the branches of the Socioeconomic Strengthening Program. Here we met with one of ten women’s networks where female survivors of SGBV receive vocational training, educational training of network leaders, skills training, such as basket making, as well as microcredit and training in various income-generating activities.

The PRIO team and associated experts from Norway and abroad will return to Bukavu later this year to follow up on the project development as well as conduct more specialized research trainings.

For more information about this project, please click here.