World Humanitarian Day: What keeps me going?


    Blog by Raymond Chubaka Mukengere, CARE DR Congo sexual and gender-based violence project manager

     I've been a humanitarian worker for over 13 years; for the past 11 years, I?ve been managing CARE DRC programs that focus and help women who have survived sexual or gender-based violence in the North Kivu region ? an area that continues to be the scene of violence and displacement, and only last year has seen the displacement of up to half a million people, bringing the total number of internally displaced persons in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to 2.6 million[1].

    I?m married and the father of four boys; the eldest is nine years old, the youngest is one and a half. Some parents would call my family lucky; not having daughters can be seen as a blessing in a country where rape is so entrenched and widespread.

    All these years as a humanitarian worker, I?ve been based in rural areas, basically alongside the poorest and least privileged people of my country. I?m passionate about my work and it?s rewarding to see progress despite the many challenges (illiteracy, insecurity, displacement, violence). The women I?m working with are those who suffer the most. Imagine you worked hard, and when harvest comes, you have to flee your home, your village. Your field is harvested by armed groups; when you come back ? not mentioning the difficult, traumatic journey in between ? all that awaits for you is nothing.

    On a personal level, the realities of the people I am working with can be distressing. It can be upsetting to the point that you can start feeling physically sick; you return to your office or your home a bag full of emotions. Because of this, I?ve contemplated working in a different field. But it?s been a difficult step to take. What has always prevented me has been this passion for my work and what agencies such as CARE do; the knowledge that I can help and the rewarding feeling I have when I see the results of this up front; the support of my colleagues and the strength this gives me; the stories that I hear and people that I see ? stories of strength, courage and determination to get up after each blow.

    These past few months, my work focused on engaging with women who are part of CARE?s Voluntary and Saving Loan Association (VSLA) called Salama. ?Salama? means ?Peace? and is an appropriate name for this particular group. Why? Of the 30 members of the association, 25 of them have been recently displaced by renewed conflict in the province of North Kivu. The original group got to be split in smaller groups, scattered in four corners ? literally ???? of the province.

    Recently the village which they were forced to flee was deemed safe enough for them to return. And this is when I?ve met them again all together. First of all, I was just moved. Moved that the idea of regrouping and continuing their activities seemed to give them strength, courage and a wish to overcome the traumatic times they?ve just experienced. I admired also their courage and strong will ? after all, their village was still struggling and not completely safe.

    So, ?Peace? seemed indeed a good name ? especially also as the group was made up of women from different ethnic groups. ?We are welded together. All we need is peace though, for the war to stop so that we don?t have to keep leaving our villages,? said the association?s President.

    It struck me that beyond the financial gains ? the money saved and then invested in small businesses ? the group benefited the women in other ways too. It has brought cohesion, a sense of normality and hope. Seeing this amongst vulnerable women coming from small villages was touching, and a symbol ? to me ? of women?s determination to improve their lives.

    It is examples such as this one ? of the women of the ?Peace? VSLA ? that keep me wanting to continue, and get up after every blow.

    * Raymond Chubaka Mukengere has been the project manager of CARE DRC?s MAMA AMKA, which provides psychosocial and socio-economic support to survivors of sexual- and gender-based violence in North Kivu region

    [1] OCHA, Press Release, 7 March 13

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