Mawazo lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and has participated in the Tushinde Ujeuri Project, which is implemented by IMA World Health, part of the Corus International family of organizations. The program offered comprehensive support for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. Mawazo’s husband encouraged her participation after she experienced violence in her workplace. (Photo credit: Paul Jeffrey)

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a public health crisis around the world. The World Health Organization estimates that as many as 1 in 3 women globally are affected by physical or sexual violence, and a lack of empowerment, autonomy, education and opportunity for women and girls negatively affects both their health and that of their children and families.

IMA World Health has integrated SGBV interventions and behavior change communication around women’s empowerment into broader health programs for more than a decade, focusing primarily in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

IMA is the lead implementer of the United States Agency for International Development’s Tushinde Ujeuri: Comprehensive Services to Address GBV Project in Eastern Congo, where years of insecurity and conflict alongside deeply rooted gender inequities and harmful cultural practices have contributed to high rates of SGBV. These, in turn, cause severe medical, psychological, economic and social suffering for survivors, their families and communities. Tushinde Ujeuri is a comprehensive community-based program designed to help communities respond to and prevent SGBV. In Swahili, its name means “We Overcome Violence.”

Tushinde Ujeuri builds on the highly successful USAID Ushindi Project (2010-2017), through which IMA provided SGBV prevention and response activities in highest risk areas of Eastern Congo. IMA’s holistic approach to addressing SGBV incorporates social and financial recovery, in addition to medical care and psychosocial support. Ushindi directly assisted nearly 30,000 survivors of SGBV from 2010 to 2017.

IMA World Health also serves as the founding organization and secretariat of We Will Speak Out U.S., a coalition of faith-based organizations working together to empower faith communities to speak out against SGBV. In 2014, IMA, on behalf of the coalition, partnered with Sojourners to release Broken Silence, a report based on a Lifeway Research survey of 1,000 U.S.-based Protestant pastors on their understanding of and response to SGBV in their congregations and communities. The report found that pastors often underestimate the prevalence of SGBV, speak infrequently about it and have even responded to disclosures of violence in ways that may inadvertently do more harm than good.

IMA deepened this research through a partnership with the Science, Religion, and Culture Program at Harvard Divinity School. After a year-long qualitative study of seven Boston-area congregations and three chaplains from two local universities, IMA and HDS released the “Interrogating the Silence” report in 2015. This study confirmed that religious leaders have little support and little training in dealing with issues related to SGBV and concluded that, while religious leaders are a powerful resource for victims and survivors of SGBV, they need more training on the available tools, gender relations, and the social mechanisms that contribute to violence.

Project Highlights
Counter Gender-based Violence (Tushinde Ujeuri) Project

USAID in partnership with an IMA World Health-led consortium of local and international partners has been on the forefront of countering sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in eastern DRC through the Tushinde Ujeuri, Counter Gender-Based Violence Project. This comprehensive, 5-year project implemented in five health zones in North and South Kivu provinces works to strengthen community-based prevention of and response to SGBV, reduce SGBV incidence, and improve the quality of and access to holistic care for survivors, particularly among vulnerable groups including LGBTI. The USAID Tushinde project has and continues to help reintegrate survivors of SGBV successfully within their communities through holistic medical, psychosocial, legal, and socio-economic support, while disrupting the broader cycle of SGBV. The project adopts an integrated approach to prevention, response, and reintegration of SGBV survivors and has reached 19,940 survivors to date with SGBV services. To date, 18,416 survivors have received psychosocial services, 6,351 survivors have received medical care, and 5,696 survivors have received legal counseling. The Tushinde project continues to reach communities with SGBV prevention messages, with 1,183,083 individuals having received messages to date and more planned for the fifth and final year of the project. Through this project, IMA has developed a unique expertise in advocating for protection through a human rights-based approach for marginalized groups including LGBTI individuals. Eighty-two LGBTI community members have been reached with SGBV prevention and response awareness to date with more outreach planned in the coming year. Of the project's supported groups, 126 members were sensitized on LGBTI rights in the last year, totaling 150 reached since the beginning of the project.

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) Kit Procurement in DRC

IMA has procured and distributed Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) Kits in the DRC since 2018. IMA's current running PEP Kit project, funded by USAID/BHA, responds to the PEP Kits needs in 10 provinces most affected by humanitarian crisis and SGBV issues across the DRC. IMA World Health employs a multipronged supply and distribution strategy which increases access, reduces stock-out, and reduces cost per Kit through a cost-effective local kitting solution. Through this holistic approach, IMA improves the PEP Kit supply and utilization in DRC and supports redistribution of PEP Kits based on demand level data, which reduces stock out and loss. Through these various USAID/BHA supported projects, access to PEP Kits has significantly increased in targeted provinces where 96% of survivors of sexual violence who arrived at a health facility within 72 hours of assault received a PEP Kit. These projects have cumulatively purchased, kitted, and distributed 93,569 PEP Kits, trained a total of 1,386 health care professionals in clinical management of rape, including PEP Kit administration and sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA), improving the quality medical care of SGBV survivors while also preventing SEA. These USAID/BHA-funded projects have been instrumental in the response efforts to SGBV issues in the country in the last three years as they have been the main source of PEP Kits without which SGBV survivors in the targeted areas would have not been able to access these essential lifesaving drugs.

Support of Provision of Reproductive Health and Gender-Based Services in Bor State Hospital and Mingkaman Protection of Civilians Sites (RH and GBViE)

This project was a grant from the United Nations Population Fund to support the provision of Reproductive Health and Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies (GBViE) Services in Bor State Hospital and Mingkaman Protection of Civilians Site. The focus was on ensuring delivery of a Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP) of services. Activities included training of service providers on components of MISP service delivery focusing on sexual and reproductive health support and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) prevention and care, information and services, and coordination and program management to promote sexual and reproductive health and combat gender based violence. Project staff also provided Dignity Kits and psychosocial support to survivors of SGBV. The project had established a One Stop Center in Bor State Hospital and a Youth-Friendly Space in Mingkamen, where project staff worked with youth to combat stigma and norms that may contribute to SGBV.