MEDIA ADVISORY, April 17 /Standard Newswire/ -- The following is submitted by Michael Kleinman, CARE Regional Advocacy Advisor for East and
Occasionally I realize that I've changed. The sights and stories that once would have left me unable to sleep now pass almost without comment - the suffering caused by conflict in Darfur or elsewhere in the region almost never strikes a personal chord any more; it's simply part of the job. It's a sense of detachment that serves a purpose, a way of protecting oneself.
But sometimes it's impossible to keep that reserve, to maintain that sense of detachment. Six women gathered in a room in a small village in the Democratic Republic of Congo - all survivors of rape. They described how their lives had changed after being raped, the lack of services and the lack of support. One of the women, in tears, described how her husband forced her from their home after she was raped, separating her from her children. It's a moment I cannot stop thinking about, even a year later - a moment that I can't begin to assimilate or forget.
The stories these women told me are not unique. The overlapping conflicts in Central Africa - in
The situation is no better in northern
These are the voices that have propelled CARE to expand our response to gender-based violence in
The Great Lakes Advocacy coordinator, Muhamed Bizimana, is working with country offices to develop staff training to help grassroots women's associations articulate the steps they think necessary for addressing gender-based violence on a local level and then support these associations as they engage local officials. A large part of this work involves strategies for engaging men within the communities as potential drivers of change.
We have also started working with U.N. agencies, civil society networks and other international organizations to coordinate advocacy on the national level in these countries around an international protocol on sexual and gender-based violence. All four countries signed the protocol as part of the recently concluded International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. The protocol itself contains draft legislation to help ensure that national laws are responsive to gender-based violence.
At the same time, CARE is advocating for the U.S. Congress to pass the International Violence Against Women Act, which would help ensure that the United States is doing all it can to address gender-based violence in places like the Congo. Over 7,000 CARE supporters have contacted their members of Congress, urging them to pass this crucial legislation.
There's a long, long way to go. But it's worth all our effort and more if, at some point in the not-too-distant future, a woman in eastern