Volunteers shine the light of Christ’s compassion on the darkest part of their communities to prevent exploitation and violence against women.
The eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the “worst place in the world for women,” says the prestigious Oxford Research Group. The region is prone to sexual assaults and other forms of violence against women, and especially so since the early 1990s when conflicts in neighboring Uganda, Rwanda, and South Sudan sent a flood of armed male refugees into the eastern DRC.
Samaritan’s Purse Canada has been working with local partners in the poverty-plagued area since 2009—including a project intended specifically to help protect women, girls, and youth.
The project trains local church leaders and volunteers to determine who might be at risk as well as to identify signs of sexual abuse and/or violence against women and youth. The leaders and volunteers work to ensure the women’s and children’s safety in their homes and workplaces.
That assistance can include helping women find employment to lessen their risk of being exploited.The project also teaches church leaders to promote a Christ-like model of how females should be treated in their communities—with respect and compassion. And the leaders and volunteers learn to minister to survivors of sexual assaults and similar forms of violence by offering compassion, spiritual support, and access to legal assistance.
Egbakpi Atusa Nyakuwa, a 43-year-old farmer living in the DRC near the border with South Sudan is a “Mwinda,” which literally means ‘light.’ Mwinda is the name given to the project’s more than 130 volunteers trained in preventing sexual assaults and similar forms of violence. They are shining the light of Christ’s compassion on the darkest part of their communities.
Egbakpi was divorced at 18 after her husband made plans to marry a second time. She cares for two siblings and her elderly mother.
“I am obliged to stay near [my mother], especially as she remains weak due to her advanced age. My younger sister and younger brother, with whom we live, are also my responsibility.”
Mwindas like Egbakpi are organized into community-based “Protection Committees” that mentor men, women, and youth. Female members of the protection committees care for and counsel victims of sexual assault and violence.
The committees also provide socio-economic support to survivors and their children, or to those who have been identified as particularly vulnerable.
During meetings organized to reinforce the training Mwindas already received, Egbakpi told us the sessions also taught her the importance of forgiveness—and specifically, forgiveness toward her brother with whom she’d had lots of familial strife.
“It (the training) encouraged me to reflect on the life of conflict I was taking part in with my brother,” she says. “I have sincerely forgiven my brother before the world and before my God.”
Egbakpi says she’s been blessed by God, and by being selected to serve as a Mwinda and help her people. She promises to “put myself to work to change the behavior of my community and . . . really invest myself in the prevention of sexual violence.”
With your help Samaritan’s Purse and our partners can continue to equip women in the DRC and other countries with the tools and skills to overcome violence and exploitation, while understanding that God calls us to forgive the offenses we have been subjected to in the past.