At the age of 13, Miryam was such a fierce advocate for justice that she and her mother dreamed she would become a lawyer. But on 3 January 2003, Miryam’s bright future was ripped apart when an armed group from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo terrorised her city of Bangui in Central African Republic.
“They violated everyone - children, the elderly, young girls, men. Those who fought back were killed. The person who raped me took out a knife and killed [my mother].”
Following the attack, Miyram was forced into prostitution, fell pregnant several times and gave birth to a child. The stigma surrounding her situation as a survivor of conflict-related sexual violence left Miryam abandoned by those closest to her.
“[My neighbour, with whom I was living] demanded that I leave with my child. My sisters were with our father. I attempted to contact them, but they rejected me entirely. I didn’t have a choice.”
Miryam was the victim of sexual violence again in 2015, following an attack by the armed group Seleka.
“Five men raped me, I started to bleed and cry. A neighbour and his wife took me in and tried to help me, but I kept bleeding. I didn’t receive proper medical help until recently, in 2022. As a human being, as a woman – no one deserves to be treated like this.”
Solène, another survivor, also faced stigma, isolation and psychological pain following a brutal attack on her village of Kaga-Bandoro by armed men in 2017.
“I was pregnant when they arrived. They raped me, killed my husband and burned my house. One month later, I gave birth and my parents rejected me. I fled to Bangui with my six children, starting life again at zero. It’s very difficult because I cannot forget what happened to me.”
Breaking the silence
Today, Miryam continues her fight against injustice by breaking the silence to support other survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in their quest for reparations.
“I am not only a survivor – I am now also a leader. I want to lend a hand to those who are victims so that they become survivors. I call on all survivors to speak out.”
Thanks to joining the Movement of Survivors in Central African Republic (MOSUCA), Solène received counselling for her mental health and found her way out as an activist.
“Those who have suffered atrocities don’t break the silence, their children don’t go to school, they cannot work, they are rejected. I will not lower my head – it’s time for our perpetrators to lower theirs. I want us all to open our eyes to the reality that survivors live in.”
Working hand in hand with survivors for a new future
Conflict-related sexual violence is used as a weapon of terror in Central African Republic as part of a broader system of discrimination and violence against women and girls. For many survivors, bringing their perpetrators to justice is one of the most urgent needs. Unfortunately, they also face major challenges that prevent them from rebuilding their lives such as social and economic insecurity, stigmatisation and a lack of health, education or judicial services.
The wait for reparations awarded by the government, including formal recognition of their experience, which they rightly deserve, can be far too long.
The Global Survivors Fund (GSF) has partnered with Association des Femmes Juristes Centrafricaines in Central African Republic as well as the Mukwege Foundation, MOSUCA and the Collectif national des associations de victimes de Centrafrique, to put into place interim reparative measures (IRM) that will provide the vital and life-changing support survivors need to begin again.
Through this project, survivors will receive, amongst other things, financial compensation, vocational and financial training, legal aid, medical care to repair their bodies and psychological support to heal themselves, their families, and their communities. The project will also benefit their children, including children born out of rape. All measures have been carefully chosen by survivors to transform their lives. GSF’s project aims to support survivors in the Dékoa region to live with dignity.
“This project plays a very important role. For people like me who have lost everything, these measures will allow us to restart our lives more easily,” says Solène.