International Women’s Day was founded to raise awareness of the vulnerability and unequal status of women across the globe. Today, the Order of Malta’s programmes support women in some of the world’s most violent regions.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Order of Malta provides psychological and medical treatment for women who have been subjected to assault, rape and further atrocities in the conflict-ridden province of South Kivu. Sexual violence is a defining characteristic of the conflict in the region, where rape is used as a strategic weapon and women live in fear of assault.
Since 2003 the worldwide relief service of the Order of Malta, Malteser International, has provided support and treatment for many thousands of women in South Kivu. The Order supports trauma centres, works in 5 health zones and about 60 health centres in the region, where treatment includes Post Exposure Prophilaxis to reduce the risk of HIV infection. In cases of social isolation, the humanitarian programme provides means for victims and other vulnerable women to support themselves.
Speaking today, Malteser International’s Programme Manager in DR Congo said: “We found that the strong mobilisation and awareness within the community, thanks to the humanitarian work in general and that of Malteser International in particular – in collaboration with local authorities – has led to a better “management” and greater prevention of cases of sexual violence in the region.”