Justine Masika Bihamba – Dem. Republic of the Congo

Linked with The Pole Institute, and with The Coltan Phenomenon.

See also the WSF World Social Forum 2007, Kenya.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

She says: “I request people to unconditionally help victims of violence and war. Unforgettable moments occur when I successfully mediate for families and then see women return to their matrimonial homes”.

Read Report: Traumatic Gynecologic Fistula, A Consequence of Sexual Violence in Conflict Settings, May 2006.

Read: Dimitra Newsletter.

Justine Masika Bihamba (40) has worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 1990 fighting poverty, promoting peace and human rights, promoting rural women, fighting sexual violence and supporting war victims. She organizes workshops within local communities and listening centers, grants rotating credits, and provides psychosocial, medical and legal support for victims of sexual violence. Through her dedicated work people are overjoyed to have obtained justice, gained back their health and independence and experience. This is often attributed to social and structural mindsets that awfully hurt women. Since 1990, she works against poverty, and from 2000 against sexual violence, for peace making, human rights, promoting rural women, and supporting war victims.

Justine Masika Bihamba - Dem- Republic of the Congo rogné redim 75p.jpg

Justine Masika Bihamba – Dem. Republic of the Congo

She works for the Pole Institute, and for ‘Synergy des Femmes pour les Victimes des violences Sexuelles SFVS’.

Read: An open Wound, The Issue of gender-based violence in North Kivu.
Same Text on Pole-Institute.org.

Justine Masika obtained a national diploma in 1985. She is preparing for a graduate degree in community development from the Interdisciplinary Center of Permanent Education and Development. She trained in 2000 on activity planning in Goma, DRC, then on reinforcing capacity on mediation and conflict management in Cameroon and Benin, followed by programming tools in DRC in 2002.

Mrs. Justine attended the conference on communication and information techniques in Kampala, Uganda. She was also involved in the forum of women organizations in Kinshasa, DRC in 2003. In 2004 she trained on gender, democracy and human rights, organized by the office of the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights in Kisangani, and attended a seminar on violence victims, dealing specifically with psychological follow-up, in Bujumbura.

She organizes workshops within local communities and listening centers; grants rotating loans and psychosocial, medical and legal support for victims of sexual violence. She has launched, advocated and coordinated a program to sustain victims of sexual violence and war victims in the Northern Kivu. This work has helped more than 1800 women and put in place a structure that continues to assist 100 women who seek help from the system. The collective responsibility of the network provides an opportunity for a greater impact.

As a manager of the social division at Pole Institute, she coordinates a platform titled, ?Women Synergy for Sexual Violence Victims of the North Kivu? (Sfvs). This platform is composed of 6 networks and several associations that work in favor of sexual violence victims. Justine Masika is also an active member of other diverse networks, such as Glideric, Inter Congolese Dialogue and Reflexion Group, Information and Communication, Women Leaders of North Kivu, Novib, Human Right Watch, Amnesty and Alert International, the Belgium Cooperation, Usaid, and other humanitarian, political and development actors.

Swiss cooperation funding was allocated in 2000 to train counselors and assist more than 1800 women and girl victims, who obtained justice, health, independence and their joy back, thanks to the her dedication.Mrs. Masika helps war and sexual victims. She assists those who seek for help from the Sivs. She follows up victims until they are independent and self-supporting. Resources are obtained from well wishers, who have united to create other synergies in favor of victims. She is the author of, ?investigations on women conditions in East of DRC?. It was used in the Human Rights Watch document of 2002.

Unfortunately, during her activities, she encounters conflicts related to rivalry, and misunderstanding. Among the difficulties that hamper the smooth running of any activity and the social life in general, is the war that prevails since 10 years. Consequently, military domination and exactions follow, such as pressure from threats of confrontations, fear, and moral and social deterioration. All these create insecurity that renders all humanitarian work in the country very difficult and dangerous. Women activists are exposed to constant danger as potential rape victims during their visits to the center of the country.The local humanitarian volunteers often view themselves and their determination to assist, as the only available resource, because of the lack of funding. There are enormous humanitarian needs within the population. However, only victims of sexual violence received finances to support the work coordinated by Justine Masika that is in progress.

Her work has also exposed the faults in the Congolese Law regarding the judicial problems of the unpunished exactions of violence and rapes. She and her team of jurists proposed a law at the Synergy workshop, which was presented as a bill to the parliament in Kinshasa.

Justine Masika?s personal life is not smooth sailing. She faces personal challenges in raising her children single handedly. Recently her eldest daughter went through surgery for a cardiac pathology problem. The child?s fate accentuates the weight of responsibilities, given the enormous task of her work at the Synergy.

To surmount these difficulties, Mrs. Masika gets her strength first and foremost from her Christian faith. Then her infectious personality, which encourages her colleagues. She watches in disbelief, when funds, which she desperately needs, are wasted. The needed punch in times of such despair is derived from the constant vital requests from women/victims in bad situation, who call on her for assistance. She is motivated by her achievements and the gratitude from those she helps. She hopes to see rural women organized to take their lives/destiny in their own hands, without fear of their rights being abused. (Read all on 1000peacewomen 2005).

Synergie des Femmes pour les Victimes des Violences Sexuelles (SFVF) is based in Goma and works in the North Kivu area. It primarily works on three components of the GBV problem: the psychosocial – it has 75 counsellors providing therapy, training and family mediation; medical support with the help of other facilities such as the DOCS (Doctors on Call for Service) hospital, handling 1,450 cases in the past year; and research on subjects such as women’s rights, preventative actions and judicial actions when the victims want to charge their violators in the criminal courts. (Read on IRIN).

RECENT THREATS/ATTACKS AGAINST HRDs: Congolese human rights defenders (HRDs) are frequent targets of intimidation, death threats, arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment and in some cases torture or even killing by DRC government agents or armed groups. The risks faced by Congolese HRDs are likely to become more acute still during the tense electoral period of July 2006 and its immediate aftermath. Many attacks against HRDs are political in nature and directly related to their professional human rights activities, but defenders are also at greater risk of acts of robbery because they are believed to be in contact with the international community and recipients of international financial support, even when this is not the case. (Read all on Amnesty International).

See: Excel-Sheet about ‘Self Organized activities’ (end 2006),
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links:

GREAT LAKES: Focus on sexual misconduct by UN personnel;

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