Young Kasai woman sexual violence horror

Mulanga (not her real name)
Photo: ActionAid
Zimbabwe team
Communications Focal Person

I am the Communications Focal Person for ActionAid Zimbabwe.

Like savages, they gang raped her, one after the other. They were four armed men.

They covered my face with a cloth as each one of them took turns to sexually assault me. They took my husband away and I have not seen him since that day.  I suspect they may have killed him, said 19-year-old woman, Mulanga (not her real name) from Kasai Central Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

As if the agony was not enough, Mulanga fell pregnant because of the horrific sexual assault in August 2017. She gave birth to a baby girl born in April 2018. The baby may be a constant reminder of the gruesome assault the rest of her life if she does not receive psychosocial support to recover from it. She will never know the father of her child as the four men who sexually assaulted her cannot be found.

Despite the ghastly circumstances that I conceived my child, I love her, said, a proud mother, who has named her baby after herself.

Mulanga is one of the million people affected by the conflict that hit the Kasai community since 2016.  The conflict in the Kasai area is believed to have started following the death of a traditional leader Kamwena Nsapu in Dibaya area, causing the mass displacement. The bulk of those who died were children as they succumbed to malnutrition as their families fled and lived in bushes for long periods ranging from two weeks to one year with no food. The armed men who moved in groups killed more men than women, while women were targeted as sex objects. They also sexually assaulted older women like Mulanga’s 49-year-old mother, who was also raped. 

Mulanga, who had one child (4 years) with her husband is currently living in central DRC with her mother and extended family, some 200km away from the village she fled in 2017. Her brother and wife disappeared when war broke out in their village. Mulanga and her mother suspect that they may have been killed. The family is living in a three-roomed house whose rent is being paid by the church community.

I am disturbed by what people are saying about me. Some are calling me a prostitute because I have a child whose father I do not know. In this community, if you do not have a husband you are not treated with respect, said Mulanga.

Mulanga is one of the 2 800 people from the Kasai Central Province of the DRC to benefit from various interventions implemented by ActionAid, with support from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). She has been supported to receive trainings on sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) from community based volunteers who are also internally displaced persons (IDPs) trained by ActionAid.

In addition to training to reduce her vulnerability to SGBV, which is still being reported in this community, ActionAid will support Mulanga with a cash transfer through a mobile money transfer. Communities will prioritise what do with the money. Most young women like Mulanga and girls as young as 15 in this community are vulnerable to sexual predators who take advantage of their circumstances to sexually abuse them.  

If I receive money, I will buy food for the family as we sometimes go a day without food because the donations from the church community are erratic. I will start my income generating project of selling foods stuffs which I used to rely on before conflict affected us.  If I have money I will also devise ways of collecting my son who was taken away in 2017 by my husband’s family, whose whereabouts I am not sure of. My son is supposed to be doing early childhood education and I would like to take him to school.  I will also help my mother pay for her medical attention as she has not been well since she was sexually assaulted, Mulanga said.

ActionAid is currently fundraising to assist people like Mulanga and her mother with professional psychosocial support to help her address their trauma.  The organisation is also working on establishing referral systems for survivors of SGBV to access medical and legal support which are greatly needed in the Kasai area.   

Since October 2017, ActionAid has supported over 26,450 people to date in the two provinces of the Grand Kasai Region.