Catholic Development Agency Reaches Out to Victims of Sexual Violence in DR Congo

Africa DRC Fundraising Training Olame Centre/ Credit: CAFOD

The leadership of the development and humanitarian arm of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), has outlined the entity’s efforts to reach out to victims of sexual assault in the Archdiocese of Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to help them overcome past traumatic experiences.

To provide a platform for victims of sexual violence to heal, CAFOD has facilitated the construction and running of “Olame Center”, a facility within Bukavu Archdiocese that offers counselling and training to women who have survived sexual violence and rape.

In a report issued Thursday, July 8, officials of the Catholic entity say, “Women who have survived sexual violence are often shunned from their communities, accused of being traitors or diseased. As a result, they are outcasts and isolated.”

They note that COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge to women who are healing from their past traumatic experiences.

“The coronavirus pandemic has reminded us of the importance of community support and inclusion,” CAFOD officials say, and add, “The isolation we have experienced through various lockdowns has been tough. However, isolation when you’re trying to heal from emotional and physical trauma is next to impossible.”


To help the women empower themselves economically, CAFOD leadership says the Catholic organization has identified specific skills, which women can learn and put them to use to earn a living.

“Women at the Olame Centre can complete training to earn money and become independent through farming or activities like soap selling, sewing and making briquettes,” the leadership of the development organization says.

Additionally, the charity officials say women at the healing center have recently been making masks, thus contributing to the containment measures against COVID-19 in the Central African nation.

They also note in the report that the level of stigma towards women who have been sexually assaulted makes victims not to speak out, a challenge that the Olame Center has sought to address.

“Alongside counselling and medical support, Olame Centre has special ‘Listening Rooms’. These are safe spaces for women who have survived sexual violence to come together to tell their stories, to share their pain with people who understand, to learn that they are not meek victims but powerful survivors,” they say.

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In the report, beneficiaries of the program have expressed their gratitude to CAFOD for the assistance.

“I got help from the Olame Centre. They gave me some money to start farming and raise a goat and rabbits. I received health cards to help with the medical care of my children. The Olame Centre supports my daughter’s studies,” says Mapendo who is bringing up a child born out of rape when she was 18.

In a May 2021 report, the United Nations identified DRC as one of the countries with the highest number of internally displaced people due to armed conflicts. This, UN said, is the biggest contributor to sexual violence meted against women.

According to the UN, many women and girls in DRC are victims of war and have “paid a heavy price” by being raped.

“Women and girls are caught in the middle, paying a heavy price with their rights, their bodies and their lives,” says the head of the UN Population Fund, Dr Natalie Kanem.