Since 2013, the Central African Republic has been in the grip of a serious political and security crisis, with internecine conflict exacerbating the sexual violence that was already widespread. Now, it is used to terrorize and “punish” civilians. Such violence increased by 174% between 2014 and 2019.
Survivors are often stigmatized, as a great stigma is attached to rape, with victims often rejected by their families and the community.
More than 17,000 cases of gender-based violence (GBV) were recorded between January and September 2022, an increase of 53 per cent compared to the entire year of 2021, according to the GBV Information Management System (GBVIMS), an initiative that allows humanitarian actors to collect, analyze and share cases reported by survivors.
In 2020, the Pierre Fabre Foundation, Panzi DRC Foundation, Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation and Francophone Institute for Justice and Democracy joined hands, with financial support from AFD Group, to launch an ambitious program to support victims of sexual violence in the Central African Republic.
"Nengo", which means “dignity” in Sango, the country’s official language is a project based on the model developed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by Dr. Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize Winner in 2018 for his work in ending the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.
Discover the book “Nengo, a Fight for Dignity”, published by Privat in November 2022. The author and photographer Nick Danziger went to meet 15 female and male survivors, to hear their stories.
“Our meeting with Dr. Mukwege in 2017 was very striking on many levels. It showed us the extent of the suffering of people in Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the scourge of sexual violence. We also saw the extraordinary work of Dr. Mukwege who, in 20 years, has honed a care model providing holistic treatment for people and their recovery,” says Pierre-Yves Revol, President of the Pierre Fabre Foundation. “Working alongside Dr. Mukwege was also in line with our philosophy: work with local field operators and give them the means to take action, without replacing them.”
The victims have access to holistic care and support:
- Medical care: to treat victims of rape, physical assaults and serious gynecological problems (genital mutilation, fistula, prolapse). To provide more effective treatment, the technical facilities have been modernized at Bangui’s Friendship Hospital and the staff in the gynecology-obstetrics unit and maternity unit have received additional training
- Psychological care: to help victims overcome their trauma. Psychologists have received training and the capacity of the psychiatric unit has been increased. Communication and information campaigns are also organized
- Legal assistance: victims are assisted with legal proceedings to try to obtain justice. The expertise and reception capacity of the Central African Association of Women Lawyers (AFJC) in Bangui have been reinforced
- Socioeconomic assistance: to empower the victims, by helping them find income-generating activities and/or gain access to education
“We restore the dignity of the women who come to see us. They arrive traumatized, but when they leave the hospital, they have more strength to join society again,” says Dr. M’betid Degana, obstetrician-gynecologist at Bangui's Friendship Hospital.
Read the testimonies of victims, lawyer and caregivers: Restoring Dignity to Victims of Sexual Violence in the Central African Republic
The Nengo project has developed rapidly since its launch in September 2020, despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the conflict that continues to rage across the country. More than 4,000 patients have received treatment and 7,875 victims will eventually have access to the program.
Building on the initial results of the Nengo project, the next stages aim to broaden its scope, by making the services available in the provinces. A mobile holistic unit will be set up for this purpose, depending on developments in the security situation.
The strengthening of pre-service training and in-service training for caregivers, psychologists and lawyers also continues to be a priority.
Attend the conference (in French): “The Feminist Challenges Posed by the Rollback of Women’s Rights”, on 6 March at 16:00
The Nengo project is financed under the Minka Peace and Resilience Fund, AFD Group’s tool dedicated to peacebuilding. The photo above is part of the series taken for the book, "Nengo, a Fight for Dignity." © Nick Danziger