"From Congo to Ukraine, efforts to end sexual violence in conflict and humanitarian crises will fail unless they empower survivors to speak up, victims of rape and abuse said on Friday.
Sexual and physical violence disproportionately affects women and girls, with one in three experiencing it in their lifetime, according to the United Nations – a proportion that significantly increases in armed conflict and disasters.
But too often aid interventions ignore survivors' needs and fail to provide access to vital sexual and reproductive health services, delegates heard at the U.N.'s first conference on ending sexual violence in humanitarian crises in Oslo.
'We know what's been done to us, we should be the first ones involved in responding to this crime,' said Guillaumette Tsongo Kanyere, who was raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo where multiple armed conflicts and an Ebola outbreak are raging.
'We are not asking you to speak in our name but to amplify our voices,' said Kanyere, a women's rights activist who is part of SEMA, a network of survivors started by Congolese doctor and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Denis Mukwege.
Women are often the 'first responders' in humanitarian crises and those whom survivors of sexual violence will turn to for help, said Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
Yet their efforts remain 'critically underfunded,' she said, with less than 1% of aid funds going towards tackling gender-based violence in crises, according to research commissioned by the International Rescue Committee (IRC).
Survivors urged world leaders at the conference to end the impunity that fuels gender-based violence."