The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been engulfed by conflict and genocide since 1994. Hutu militias fled across the border from Rwanda—where they had just slaughtered Tutsis and moderate Hutus in one of the most organized genocides of the 20th century. Armed groups have forcibly recruited children as soldiers. Members of the Congolese army and rebel groups, along with civilians, have inflicted sexual and gender-based violence throughout the conflict. Nelly and Grace, two women in the DRC supported by AJWS, have experienced these atrocities.
Although laws against these crimes exist in the DRC, survivors of these attacks typically don’t find justice so much as social rejection and—in some cases—eviction from their homes. In general, women often struggle to make their voices heard in their homes and communities. Despite multiple peace agreements and the dissolution of the M23 rebel group, the eastern region remains in a political crisis.
This crisis has been exacerbated by conflicts over land and mineral resources. DRC has extensive and highly valuable mineral deposits, including diamonds, gold and copper. Artisanal mining employs up to 20 percent of the population, but those involved in the trade face numerous human rights challenges, from child labor to extortion by government officials and armed groups. Confusion over land laws—combined with corrupt attempts by corporations or powerful individuals to grab valuable tracts of land—sometimes ends with local residents unexpectedly losing their homes and livelihoods. Indigenous people, in particular, are often excluded from key decisions about the land that they have lived on for generations.
AJWS is committed to helping DRC’s people advocate for their human rights. Our grantees in DRC are:
- Advocating for laws and policies to protect the rights of women, indigenous people and other marginalized groups
- Increasing legal support for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence
- Training women and youth to participate in local politics and run for public office
- Improving safety and security for human rights activists at risk
- Documenting and raising awareness of illegal land grabs and mineral extraction
- Educating local communities about their rights and working to increase their control over their land and mineral resources