Screening of Seeds of Hope highlights tackling sexual violence remains a huge issue in Congo
Fiona Lloyd-Davies led a thoughtful discussion about sexual violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following the screening of her feature documentary Seeds of Hope as part of the joint London School of Health and Tropical Medicine with Global Health Film screening series.
Although filming on Seeds of Hope started over a decade ago, the discussion highlighted that many of the issues the film raises about the incidence of sexual violence in conflict as well as societal attitudes towards rape in DRC and the lack of justice and support for survivors are still very current. Joining Fiona on the panel was Dr Augustin Paluku, medical doctor and health technical advisor at International Rescue Committee, DRC, and Prof. Heidi Stockl, director of Gender, Violence and Health Centre at the LSHTM. It was chaired by Dr Neha Singh, co-director of Health in Humanitarian Crises Centre at the LSHTM.
The panel did point towards some areas of progression since the film’s release in 2013. Prof. Heidi said that community-based faith leaders were having a promising effect on changing attitudes and Dr Augustin talked about his work engaging with men identified as allies in the fight to end sexual violence in areas of conflict. Fiona picked out two trials against prominent leaders in the DRC that resulted in convictions and played a part in drawing attention to the wider issue. She said the Kavumu Trial of 2017 and the Mai-Mai-Sheka leader trial in 2020 were though a drop in the ocean, still hugely significant. Fiona suggested areas where much improvement was still needed, namely in a joined up response to collecting evidence and data. Drawing from the original research she did for her recent Master studies at Cambridge University, Fiona highlighted that while there was a lot of data out there, the methods used to collect it differed and it wasn’t always shared between organisations. If actors in the region worked collectively she suggested that it would have a huge advance in helping to hold perpetrators to account.
Fiona also noted alarming statistic from the Kivu Tracker (about incidents of mass rape in the DRC. Five cases of mass rape, at least 25 people, in the last seven months. Sexual violence is almost always a part of the story when villages and communities are attacked people are forced to flee their homes. The DRC has the 2nd highest rate of displaced people in the world: 5.2 million.
Audience member Rebecca said she was “struck by the extraordinary resilience of the women” in Seeds of Hope and raised points about how important it is for justice to be done for the women involved. Hannah who was also watching the virtual event described interviews Fiona carried out with soldiers in the documentary as “powerful” and “striking” underscoring how vital hearing why sexual violence crimes are committed is to changing social attitudes and norms towards rape in the DRC.
Watch the full discussion here: