Living Peace Program to Scale Up Healing After Conflict in Democratic Republic of the Congo

Living-Peace-3Starting in 2015, Promundo and partners will implement a four-year expansion of the innovative Living Peace program throughout North and South Kivu provinces in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Using group therapy and group education techniques, Living Peace addresses the trauma associated with conflict and promotes equitable, nonviolent paths to healing for individuals, families and communities. Partnering with Institut Superieur du Lac (ISL), Benenfance, and HEAL Africa, Promundo will launch the project in Goma, DRC in January 2015, reaching thousands of community members during the project’s first year of implementation.

Democratic Republic of the Congo, which endured devastating wars and violent conflict during recent decades continues to be affected by high levels of gender inequality and violence at home and in the community. In a recent survey conducted with men and women in eastern DRC, approximately half of all women reported that they had experienced sexual violence from a husband or male partner.

Promundo’s Living Peace program works to prevent violence in post-conflict settings by providing a combination of evidence-based psychosocial support and group education to men to help them develop positive coping strategies and rebuild peaceful partner relations. The program’s group therapy sessions also lead to social restoration within communities by bringing men and families together to share their experiences.

Based on the success of Living Peace groups piloted in Goma and Luvungi, DRC and in northern Burundi, the four-year scale-up project will expand the program’s reach throughout North and South Kivu. Of particular focus will be communities most affected by high rates of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and other forms of trauma, ethnic tensions, and an elevated risk of renewed conflict. To achieve sustainable, gender-equitable peace, the program will provide psychosocial support to men and their families, as well as work with men and boys to transform norms around masculinity.

Building on its current model, in 2015 the Living Peace project will adopt a fully integrated approach, working at all levels of the community and with key institutions, including the police, the military, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), service-providing organizations, and other NGOs. The program’s multiple activities will work in concert to achieve its objectives, which include improving the quality of services offered to survivors of SGBV, providing psychosocial support to ex-combatants, and building the capacity of local organizations – including ISL, Benenfance, and HEAL Africa – to ensure the program’s sustainability. The activities will include:

  • Training health sector, police, and military workers to question and change rigid, gender-inequitable, and violence-supportive norms and attitudes.
  • Training peace ambassadors to stabilize the negative effects of war and conflict within the community by strengthening individuals’ capacities to cope in constructive ways. A gender-specific approach will help promote equal access to services for both men and women that meet their different needs.
  • Restoring peaceful partner relations by educating men and women about family planning and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • Strengthening Congolese civil society organizations, particularly by building the capacity of local organizations, to address the various psychological and socio-economic problems that men, women, and their families face post conflict.
  • Institutionalizing the Living Peace approach to ensure sustainability by local, Congolese-run NGOs through the establishment of a permanent Living Peace training and research institute. The institute will provide training, research, and capacity building in the region and throughout the country both during and after the implementation of the four-year project.

The Living Peace program in North and South Kivu is expected to reach around 900 young and adult men during the first year alone, along with thousands more female partners and community members. By training health sector and public security officials, restoring peaceful partner relations, and institutionalizing the Living Peace approach, the program is expected to contribute to a reduction in gender-based violence, improved sexual and reproductive health and rights, greater gender equality, and increased human security.

Funding for the first year of the project is provided by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Great Lakes Regional Programme.

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