16 Days of GBV activism: A survivor speaks out

By: 
CARE

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – the start of the global 16 Days of Activism campaign to end violence against women.

Gender-based violence always increases at times of conflict, crisis or economic stress. For many women around the world, the situation has been made even worse by the widespread lockdowns, restrictions on movement, and disruption to livelihoods as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The increase in gender-based violence during COVID-19 has been called a shadow pandemic.

The scale of this shadow pandemic has underscored the need to ensure women and girls have access to support services and protection against violence at home, in the community, and where they work.

Women and girls like Neema Mave (below), age 20, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo who now lives in Kyangwali settlement in Uganda.

Portrait of Neema Mave in Uganda

With CARE’s support, Mave has turned her life around. Here is her story.

“In 2018, while I was in our garden in the DRC, three men came out of nowhere and raped me. I went back home and kept quiet because of fear. I did not know what to tell my parents or how they would react.

“A week later, war broke out and we were forced to flee and seek refuge in Uganda. When I realised I was pregnant, I decided to tell my parents who did not believe and were very angry with me.”

Life was very difficult for me, I had no peace at home.

“My parents decided to go back to DRC. I decided to look for my aunt and ask if I could stay with her.”

I told her what had happened to me. She counselled and encouraged me not to lose hope.

Mave then met one of CARE’s community-based facilitators during a community dialogue:

“She realised I was in distress, and encouraged me to visit the women and girls centre. I had so many questions: how am I going to manage the pregnancy, what will I tell the child about her father/origin, how will I support the child? When I went to the centre I was welcomed, talked to, and encouraged which helped restore the hope I had lost and changed my mindset.”

All the questions in my mind were dissolved after receiving support from CARE.

After her daughter was born, Mave joined the survivors’ peer support group where experiences and stories are shared by group members to support them to develop a positive coping mechanism. “These stories gave me hope,” says Mave.

I feel so happy and empowered today knowing I have peers who can support me. CARE staff have continued to make home support visits to assess my progress.

“I am grateful to CARE because amidst COVID-19 and during lockdown they did not forget about me and other girls. They supported us with dignity and hygiene kits to improve our hygiene, be self-reliant, and protected us from being exploited.”

Today as I speak, I am an empowered woman.

“I do a small business of selling bananas near our home where I get some income to support myself and my daughter. I was also identified and trained as a ‘girl shine’ mentor to support other young girls in my community by disseminating information to increase their knowledge and change their behaviours.”

This has empowered me and improved my self-esteem. I feel more valued and satisfied as a result of the support I give to my peers.

“I believe it’s important to share knowledge and skills with girls in the community whose parents have denied them the opportunity to come to the centre. I am thankful to my aunt who has supported me all through these difficult moments, provided me guidance, love, financial support to start my business, affection and involved me in decision-making.”

Today I feel safe, happy, and appreciated. I am a new Mave.

How CARE is responding to gender-based violence

  • In 93% of the countries where CARE is responding to COVID-19, our teams are including GBV activities in their COVID-19 response
  • We are working with partner organisations to provide support to GBV survivors
  • We are lobbying countries to ratify the ILO Convention to end violence against women at work – whenever and wherever they work
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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.