Skip to content

DRC: “Real Men” bring justice for women

2013 August 21

By Julia Boccagno

Two Congolese women were enjoying an evening stroll until they noticed four shadows lurking behind them.

They knew what was coming.

They knew they would put up a powerless fight against the four burly soldiers who gained momentum with each and every step.

Unfortunately, this situation is not unique—over 200,000 innocent women and girls have been victims of rape and sexual aggression in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), commonly perpetrated by the Congolese Army and armed militia groups.

In addition to the horror of rape, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) creates a social hierarchy between the male and female populations in the DRC. Men are usually immune to any sort of legal punishment while women are publicly stigmatized—seen as “impure”—and encouraged not to speak out against their perpetrator for fear of community isolation.

Aware of the topic’s sensitivity and complexity, Search took a multifaceted approach to tackling sexual and gender-based violence at the root level. Funded by the U.S. State Department, Search started a video campaign that educates police forces, soldiers and civilians about the importance of practicing legal accountability and protecting civilians.

drc soliders2

Public screenings of the video, “Vrai Djo,” translating to “Real Men,” were organized to promote males as positive role models. Search even partnered with local police forces to design screenings specifically for men, policemen and soldiers.

While returning from a video screening, a Search team in Kalemie witnessed the two innocent women being sexually harassed by the four soldiers.  They pulled the car over in order to peacefully mediate the situation, but the soldiers turned their guns on the Search staff, forcing them to leave. Determined to do something, Search staffers went to the Commandant of the Army in the area. The Commandant himself had watched the Vrai Djo films and attended Search’s activities to prevent SGBV, so he was sensitive to the need to stop soldiers from committing SGBV against women.

The Commandant’s intervention was immediate. The soldiers were arrested and are currently pending legal action. He assured Search staff members that no perpetrator will live in impunity.

drc soliders3.jpgThe following day the commandant of the army sought out Search Kalemie staff and thanked them. He admitted that without the awareness campaign, he would probably not have reacted to the incident and asked for more screenings to be organized for other units of soldiers.

Search is now organizing those new screenings.  When men, whether soldiers or civilians, comment on the incident, they point out that their attitude was a disgrace to soldiers and men in general; a soldier should be a “Real Man” protecting women instead of harming them.

To date, Vrai Djo screenings have reached almost 50,000 people, both men and women, who now discuss SGBV and the positive roles men should play to prevent them.

Click below, to watch the Vrai Djo videos.



As a rising American University junior, Julia Boccagno majors in Broadcast Journalism and double-minors in International Studies and Italian with the hopes of becoming a future foreign correspondent.  She firmly believes that objective news reporting is a vital tool within the peace and conflict resolution conversation.  She is currently the New Media Intern at Search for Common Ground. 

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS