The eastern DRC has experienced conflict and instability for many years and many people have been forced to leave their homes making them more vulnerable to exploitation.
Delu Lusambia is a project manager and coordinator of SYAM, (short for Siku ya Mazingira in Kiswahili), a local civil society organization in the eastern DRC that implements projects for the UN Trust fund to support victims of sexual exploitation and abuse. *
“My organization, SYAM, has been working on sexual exploitation and abuse by UN staff since 2007. Around that time, many people in the DRC had to leave internally because of conflicts. sudden and had to take refuge. MONUSCO camps in North Kivu and the eastern provinces.
They don’t have a job, don’t have any means to sustain their lives. As a result, many women and girls exchange sex with UN peacekeepers for money and food. Economic vulnerability and power imbalances can put people at risk of sexual deviance.
From 2007 to 2016, SYAM conducted investigations and heard many testimonies about sexual exploitation. We shared the results of surveys and proposed projects to support and empower women and girls in partnership with MONUSCO.
We recognize the urgent need to support victims, especially those whose children have been sexually abused by peacekeepers.
UN photo / Sylvain Liechti
That is why we set up vocational centers for women and girls, where we train them in pastry making, tailoring, bread making, hairdressing and agriculture.
I’m proud of the impact we’re making. First, according to our observations, rates of sexual exploitation and abuse have actually decreased. In addition, a large number of beneficiaries have been trained through our projects. I am delighted that a total of 375 people who benefit from 2020 to 2021 have acquired critical skills to sustain their lives.
We are also seeing changes in culture and attitudes. SYAM works with local community networks to raise awareness in communities in eastern DRC about sexual exploitation and abuse and how to report it. It is now common practice to report such cases. Whenever they see suspicious activity, the community speaks up to raise concerns with MONUSCO. ”
* Trust Fund projects are funded by 24 United Nations Member States and are carried out in cooperation with development parties, including UN agencies and civil society.