CARE and Great Lakes Activists Demand Zero Tolerance for Sexual Violence

Civil Society Leaders from Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, DRC, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia Join with CARE International to Urge Governments to Act to Stop Sexual Violence Against Women.

GENEVA (November 25, 2011) – On November 25, which marks the beginning of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, CARE International and a coalition of civil society organisations in Africa’s Great Lakes Region, call on governments to be at the frontline of the fight against sexual- and gender-based violence.

Sexual and gender-based violence has long been identified as one of the major problems threatening security and stability in the Great Lakes. Governments in the region signed a protocol [1] on tackling sexual and gender-based violence under the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) [2] in 2006, but efforts to end impunity and protect women and girls remain inadequate. On the 15th December 2011, Heads of State from the Great Lakes will meet in Kampala, Uganda. The meeting will include a Special Session to discuss sexual and gender-based violence. Civil society activists from the Great Lakes Region are urging the leaders at the meeting to agree to specific and time-bound actions to prevent and address sexual and gender-based violence, and to translate the rhetoric of the 2006 protocol into action.

The group of organisations urge heads of state to adopt the following recommendations:

  • Declare Zero Tolerance Now on sexual and gender-based violence crimes and impunity;
  •  Allocate specific and adequate funding for sexual and gender-based violence prevention programmes within a Gender Responsive Budgeting Framework;
  • Institutionalise community policing in the prevention, early warning and response to sexual and gender-based violence, in collaboration with the security service sector;
  • Establish an independent Regional Impunity Monitoring Unit by the next Summit of the Heads of State to thereafter report on progress annually;
  • Establish national Reparation Funds for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence by the next International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) Ordinary Summit of Heads of State;
  • Adopt a comprehensive sexual and gender-based violence performance framework (in the form of an index or barometer with clear standards and targets), with opportunity for civil society to present shadow or parallel reports.

“In countries emerging from war, sexual violence haunts the communities we work with long after peace agreements are signed and the conflict is formally declared over,” says Lillian Mpabulungi Ssengooba, CARE International in Uganda Advocacy Manager. “Support to the survivors of sexual violence, their families and community should be seen as a core part of efforts to consolidate peace and reconcile societies torn apart by years of brutal fighting and impunity.”

“Women and girls have faced incredible hardship and violence in the many conflicts that have brought so much devastation to our region,” says Leah Chatta Chipepa of the CSO Organizing Committee (3) of the ICGLR Summit. “The December meeting on sexual violence is a kind of test. The substance of what they agree or fail to agree will be a testament to whether our governments have the political will and capacity to agree on practical ways to better protect women, support survivors of violence and end impunity or not.”

Notes to editors:

About CARE International: Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE has more than six decades of experience helping people prepare for disasters, providing lifesaving assistance when a crisis hits, and helping communities recover after the emergency has passed. CARE places special focus on women and children, who are often disproportionately affected by disasters. Last year, CARE worked in 87 countries around the world to assist more than 82 million people improve basic health and education, fight hunger, increase access to clean water and sanitation, expand economic opportunity, confront climate change, and recover from disasters

About CSO Organizing Committee of the ICGLR Summit: The Committee comprises sub-regional and regional civil society organizations spearheading a regional process to mobilize civil society organizations in the Great Lakes region to participate in deliberations leading up to the Summit.

[1] The ‘Protocol on the Prevention and Suppression of Sexual Violence Against Women and Children’ under the ‘Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region’ adopted by the Heads of state and government of the ICGLR member states in Nairobi in December 2006 and entered into force in June 2008.

[2] The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) is an inter-governmental organization of the countries in the African Great Lakes Region. Its establishment was based on the recognition that political instability and conflicts in these countries have a considerable regional dimension and thus require a concerted effort in order to promote sustainable peace and development. Most notable among the conflicts that have had cross-border impacts or origins are the 1994 Rwandan genocide that led to the loss of more than 800,000 lives, and the political instability in DRC. The ICGLR is composed of eleven member states, namely: Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.

[3] CSO Organizing Committee comprises: ACORD, Action Aid International, African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), Akina Mama wa Afrika,CARE International, Eastern African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI), Equality Now, Isis-WICCE and Regional Associates for Community Initiatives (RACI) – Uganda.