African Great Lakes region: Helping women affected by violence

Two women from the African Great Lakes region – one looking at a document, the other with arm outstretched.
Support and education for women affected by violence in the African Great Lakes region. © SDC

Since 2011, Switzerland has been running a support programme for victims of sexual violence in the African Great Lakes region (Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo), providing medical, psychosocial and legal assistance at dedicated centres.

Switzerland offers medical, psychosocial, legal and re-integration support to women and girls who have suffered sexual violence in the African Great Lakes region (Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo). The victims receive care at dedicated centres in South Kivu, Rwanda and Burundi. Switzerland provides them with assistance on a collaborative basis, involving family members, neighbours, local authorities and other important protagonists in the recovery process – through the use of awareness-raising workshops, for example. Swiss focus is also on health system development.

In addition to the measures supported by Switzerland, a binding political commitment by countries to bring the perpetrators of crimes to justice is necessary to achieve a lasting solution to the problem.

Rape as a weapon of war

The African Great Lakes region saw rape being used as a weapon of war during the 1990s conflicts. However, the number of cases of sexual violence is still alarmingly high. Women and girls are the main victims. In addition to physical abuse, they are also subjected to psychological aggression. This includes being suspected of witchcraft and expelled from their villages, stoned or even killed as a consequence.