DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO – Si Jeunesse Savait promotes sexual and reproductive health and rights in DRC

GynaecologistDenis Mukwege has highlighted the suffering of women victims of rape in theeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). But the cruelty of the rapescommitted in the context of war must not allow us to forget the daily need foraccess to reproductive rights.

InKinshasa, Si Jeunesse Savait (If Youth Knew,SJS) plays an important role in providing young women withreproductive health information and support, in a country where the most basicrights are often not respected. SJS, a partner of the Belgian NGO Le Monde forWomen, also offers support to young victims of violence because of their sexualorientation.

In an unstable political and socio-economic context, the number ofclandestine abortions continues to increase in the DRC. Although post-abortioncare is supposed to be a public health priority, in the field the reality isquite different.

Because young women do not have time to wait for the government to helpthem, SJS decided to take action. Using all the levers of action, they seek tomove the legal framework, make young people aware of their rights and offerlegal and psychological care to victims of violence.

SJS has been one of the driving forces behindthe adoption of a law on public health, including reproductive health. In theDRC, the Penal Code still punishes any woman for illegal abortion with a prisonsentence of 5-10 years. Last year, as part of the review of a proposed publichealth law, SJS took the initiative to coordinate a network of women’sassociations to promote sexual and reproductive health provisions, includingabortion and post-abortion care.

Whilethe DRC has not formally decriminalised abortion, this political advocacy workhas led to the adoption and formal registration of the Maputo Protocol – aradical turning point for women’s rights in Congo.

Theadvocacy work by SJS has also reached healthcare providers, who have been sensitisedto the importance of providing quality care without stigmatisation of women. SJS has also worked toeducate young women about their rights and how to exercise them, and the meansavailable to them… To this end, SJS has organized workshops and developedonline projects. Last year, the association estimates that it has sensitizedmore than 5,000 people. Those who needed it could be referred to appropriatehealth structures.

Finally, SJS offers direct support services where public authorities arelacking. It offers a legal support service for the LGBTIQ population victims ofviolence or injustice or arbitrary incarceration related to their gender orsexual orientation… in a country where the rights of sexual minorities arestill poorly recognised.

From 2014 to 2017, SJS also provided free psychological care servicesfor women and young women in need and victims of sexual violence. But thisservice was interrupted due to lack of means. SJS hopes to revive it next year,thanks to your donations.

In the face of the unacceptable criminalisation of women, the patientwork of associations such as Si Jeunesse Savait is invaluable.

SOURCE: CNCD11.11.11, 16 September 2019 (en français)+ PHOTO by Anastasie Langu