IMA World Health/Emily Esworthy

K

asereka Chrison and his wife Mbambu were married for many years, had six children and lived in the Nzenga health area of Mutwanga health zone. However, in 2001, Kasereka decided to leave his wife, taking with him the control of the family property and sources of income including houses, fields, and plots of land. Mbambu was left to fend for herself and her children without any regular support or inheritance.

For over a decade afterward, Mbambu did not realize she had legal rights to the family property she and Kasereka had shared and developed during their marriage. Thanks to the IMA-led Ushindi Project and information provided to her via the Community Noyaux, Mbambu learned of her legal rights as a wife and the inheritance rights of her children. She also learned she could obtain free legal advice at the legal clinic located in the local Ushindi-supported Safe House in Mutwanga.

At the legal clinic, she met with Ushindi’s lawyer Bernard Mulumba, who is affiliated with the Beni judiciary system through a Ushindi partner, the American Bar Association, to defend causes of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) survivors. He recommended that Mbambu first try to establish an action of mediation with her ex-husband. Through a member of the Noyaux and through Mulumba’s wife, Kasereka was contacted and invited to join the remediation process. He declined.

Now fully aware of her rights, Mbambu was not deterred and sought other legal options. As a result, Mulumba contacted the local police to intervene and to hear both parties in the conflict. Through this intervention Kasereka began to understand (or to admit) that his children had inheritance rights, so he agreed to enter into mediation.

That process moved quickly and concluded with the joint signing of a mediation agreement in which he officially gave his wife a field in the Kalehene village, a plot of land in Kasindi, and a store/boutique in Mutwanga that she could use as income for her support and for the education of their children. Mbambu and the six children credit the Ushindi Project for this successful mediation and the re-establishment in their rights.

Though the dissolution of marriage and abandonment of children is not the ideal, it is encouraging to know Mbambu and her children are receiving the support and opportunities entitled to them by law. And, thanks to the Ushindi project, several hundred other mediations have been facilitated to help many more women and their families receive similar benefits.

The Ushindi Project is a five-year (2010-2015) USAID-funded project that uses a holistic approach integrating medical, legal, psychosocial, and economic support services to survivors and those affected by SGBV in 10 health zones in the eastern regions of the DR Congo. Ushindi is managed by IMA World Health, and implementing partners include Program for the Promotion of Primary Health Care (PPSSP), HEAL Africa, and the Panzi Foundation. Technical partners include the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, Save the Children, CARE, and Children’s Voice.