Women in War

Published: 
July, 2016

Studies report that between 6 per cent and 29 per cent of survivors of sexual violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are rejected by their families and communities. This research project was designed to provide insights into survivors' experiences of stigmatisation and rejection. Surveys were conducted with 310 women as they sought psychosocial services in eastern DRC. In total, 44.3 per cent of women reported suffering rejection after sexual violence.

Published: 
November, 2015

Despite facing violence and terror, local communities have created innovative systems of self-protection and resilience in the face of the LRA threat. 

Published: 
November, 2015

Individuals recently demobilized from the LRA detail the internal dynamics of the group, and describe how magic, rules, and culture are used to control new recruits.

Published: 
October, 2014

Two dominant narratives have characterized the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): (1) the horrific abuse of women through sexual violence and (2) the use of “conflict minerals” to fuel the fighting. These two advocacy narratives intersect uniquely in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) towns and can lead to flawed understandings of the true dynamics of women's experiences in these contexts. Mining areas are important centers of economic activity for women, but also pose distinct risks.

Published: 
September, 2014

The decades-long conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has resulted in major changes to local economies, strained social networks and insecurity. This environment forces many to pursue unconventional and, at times, socially stigmatised avenues for income. This paper explores the ways in which individuals in eastern DRC engage in, and are affected by, the commoditisation of sex within the context of decades of violent conflict.

Published: 
June, 2014

The debate on conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been widely documented by the international media, government and non-governmental agencies and academics. In recent years, a variety of international initiatives have been launched to curb the flow of funding from conflict minerals to armed groups. Many of these initiatives, however, have led to the loss of livelihoods for millions of small-scale miners.

Published: 
April, 2014

This project rigorously evaluated programming that addresses stigma against survivors. In this program evaluation, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s Women in War program worked with the Congolese NGO, Centre d’Assistance Medico-Psychosociale (CAMPS) to assess which parts of their programming are most effective and how to continue to improve services related to reducing stigma. 

Published: 
November, 2013

Communities in South Sudan have endured decades of conflict. Protracted conflict exacerbated reproductive health disparities and gender inequities. This study, conducted prior to the country’s 2011 independence, aimed to assess attitudes toward gender inequitable norms related to sexual relationships and reproductive health and the effects of sex, age, and education on these attitudes.

Published: 
January, 2013

This report documents the experiences and attitudes of former underage combatants in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who went through the reintegration process, the families and communities who received them and the organizations that funded and implemented reintegration programming. Despite increasing attention to the scope and importance of child soldiering globally, there is still limited systematic research on the successes and challenges of reintegration programming for former underage combatants.

Published: 
January, 2013

This study highlights the voices of individuals currently affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army to detail the extensive and systematic devastation felt specifically by formerly abducted children and their communities in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Respondents stressed that the international community must assist with providing essential services through long-term engagement, including life-saving health services; improving water and sanitation access; and providing psychosocial and educational interventions to formerly abducted children and adults.

Published: 
April, 2012

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (‘DRC’) has been called “the rape capital of the world” while Colombia was known in the late 1990s as “the murder capital of the world”. What do these capitals of crime have in common? Both countries have been plagued by conflict-related violence, including sexual violence. This chapter will serve as a comparative study to explore how such different cases – situated at difference points on the spectrum in terms of prevalence and attention received – are still described using the same narrative language.

Published: 
March, 2012

A critical perspective has been missing from the conversation resulting from the Kony 2012 campaign: that of those currently living in Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) affected areas.The voices of affected individuals and communities should be at the center of this swelling chorus of opinions . If they were, perhaps the clamor of criticism could quiet long enough to hear what is being asked of humanitarians, academics, policy makers, and global citizens.

Published: 
April, 2011

This report outlines how violence in general, and sexual violence in particular, has changed the family foundations, economies and community structures of those touched by it in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Analyzing data from focus group discussions with a range of community members in the area, it suggests recommendations for serving the holistic needs of regions affected by sexual violence.

Published: 
April, 2011

This report identifies factors – societal, financial and health-related – that influence men’s behaviors towards survivors of sexual violence and the barriers towards acceptance and reintegration of survivors into their families and communities after rape. This investigation, through interviews, focus group discussions, and a survey, looked at how to more effectively prevent and address rejection of survivors by their families and communities. This project was based in eastern DRC and funded by the World Bank.

Published: 
January, 2011

Many programs exist in eastern DRC today that assist with the medical and psychological needs of survivors – these programs can be live saving and are desperately important. But women here do not live in a void. They deeply affect those around them and are affected by those people in turn. Ignoring the needs of the family and community networks in which these women work and live means that the international community is ignoring the holistic needs of the women they are trying to serve.

Published: 
June, 2010

"Rape in War: Motives of Militia in the DRC" is a special report commissioned by United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on sexual and gender-based violence, which uniquely examines the experiences of armed combatants in this conflict. The report is a qualitative analysis of interviews conducted with the Mai Mai militia in the DRC and looks at the experiences of armed combatants with the aim of revealing potential avenues for intervention.

Published: 
April, 2010

‘Now, The World Is Without Me', is an in-depth report commissioned by Oxfam America and carried out by HHI.  The study analyzes data from female rape survivors who were treated in Panzi Hospital in South Kivu Province over a five-year period.  The analysis revealed an alarming increase in civilian perpetrators of rape.

Published: 
August, 2009

This report uses both quantitative and qualitative methods to explore sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Results from this report show the sexual violence perpetrated by armed actors in the DRC has features that indicate rape is being used as a weapon of war. The violence in DRC embodies a new kind of war emerging in the 21st century - one that occurs in villages more than battlefields and affects more civilians than armed combatants.

Published: 
May, 2009

Nowhere to Turn is a report documenting the scope and long-term impact of rape and other sexual violence experienced by women who fled attacks on their villages in Darfur and are now refugees in neighboring Chad. The report is based on a scientific study, conducted in partnership with Physicians for Human Rights, of women's accounts of rape and other crimes against humanity that they have experienced in Darfur, as well as rape and deprivations of basic needs in refugee camps in Chad.

This report includes a detailed evaluation of the clinical, surgical and managerial capacity at Panzi Hospital, and also capacity evaluations of hospitals in Kaziba, Kalonge, Walungu, Uvira, Kakawende, Kaniola, and Nyatende.

HHI in the Field: Beth Maclin in DRC

In April 2014, Beth Maclin, the Research Coordinator for the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative's Women in War Program traveled to Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to work on a program evaluation of services to reduce the stigmatization of survivors of sexual violence in the Eastern DRC. In this video, she discusses her time in the field.

Caught in Conflict: Girl Child Soldiers

In 2013, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative's Women in War Program, in collaboration with Eastern Congo Initiative, released its new report, '"We Came Back with Empty Hands": Understanding the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration of Children Formerly Associated with Armed Groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.'

The report examines the experiences of former child soldiers and their host communities during the demobilization and reintegration process in eastern DRC.

Caught in Conflict: Security

In 2013, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative's Women in War Program, in collaboration with Eastern Congo Initiative, released its new report, '"We Came Back with Empty Hands": Understanding the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration of Children Formerly Associated with Armed Groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.'

The report examines the experiences of former child soldiers and their host communities during the demobilization and reintegration process in eastern DRC.

Caught in Conflict: Ending Recruitment

In 2013, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative's Women in War Program, in collaboration with Eastern Congo Initiative, released its new report, '"We Came Back with Empty Hands": Understanding the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration of Children Formerly Associated with Armed Groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.'

The report examines the experiences of former child soldiers and their host communities during the demobilization and reintegration process in eastern DRC.

Caught in Conflict: Education

In 2013, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative's Women in War Program, in collaboration with Eastern Congo Initiative, released its new report, '"We Came Back with Empty Hands": Understanding the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration of Children Formerly Associated with Armed Groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.'

The report examines the experiences of former child soldiers and their host communities during the demobilization and reintegration process in eastern DRC.

'We Came Back with Empty Hands' Trailer

This video provides an overview of "'We Came Back with Empty Hands': Understanding the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration of Children Formerly Associated with Armed Groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," the new report released by the Women in War Program at Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and the Eastern Congo Initiative.

For the full report and more information on the project, visit http://www.wecameback.org

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About This Program

The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative's (HHI) Women in War program seeks to investigate and address women's needs in today's most troubled settings. HHI's network of diverse faculty, fellows, and researchers examines pressing issues that impact women's security throughout the world. Our projects emphasize the unique vulnerabilities women face in humanitarian settings, including gender-based violence, other forms of exploitation and abuse, and economic insecurity. Our research identifies some of the consequences of social instability and violence on women's livelihoods as well as the key role women can play as agents of social change in crisis contexts. Our work highlights the ways in which women are vital actors in their communities - advocates for change, businesspeople, service providers, and leaders. HHI's research attempts to capture the complexities and nuances of these roles and to explore how women interact with other actors.