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Day 12 of 16: How Women Bear the Cost of War

by Tabitha Peyton Wood

Claudine lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She was forced to drop out of secondary school when her father died and she had to start working. Soon after that she met her husband and they had three children together. But he abused her and she left. One evening she was walking home along the side of the road when a soldier stopped her. He demanded that she give him money. When he realized she didn’t have any, he raped her at gunpoint.

War comes with many devastating consequences. An increase in gender-based violence is one of them. According to UN Women, “humanitarian crises, including conflict and post-conflict situations, may increase women’s vulnerability to violence.” Gender-based violence, including sexual abuse, is often used as a weapon of war. Women in post-conflict nations remain vulnerable.

From 2007 to 2012, I worked and volunteered at Women for Women International a non-profit organization headquartered in Washington, DC, that assists women survivors of war in eight countries—Afghanistan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Sudan—to develop new skills and increase their income. It works by pairing the women with “sisters” overseas, who make monthly donations of $35 for one year. The donations serve as stipends for women in the program. The donor can keep track of her sister’s progress as she uses the money to pay for medicine, for her children’s education, or to start a business.

Claudine says joining Women for Women International saved her life. “The women who were in my group and the trainers came to visit me, showed me love and care, and were my only comfort during those days. We love each other in the class and when we are all there, we are very happy. We are like sisters.”

I was heartbroken to learn what many women in the program had been through. I used to think that because women are rarely involved in direct combat, they would be less affected by war. But we live in a world where the terrorizing of civilians, women in particular, is a normalized part of conflict. It’s important to do what we can to make sure women survivors of war have the resources they need to recover emotionally and financially. What lingers for me still is the heightened appreciation for the general safety of my surroundings and a greater awareness of the devastation of war.

There are several great organizations doing similar work. I was drawn to Women for Women International because, not only do they run an effective program—on average participants quintuple their income after graduation—but their system of pairing donors directly with women in the program builds international understanding and empathy.


  1. Share this post!
  2. Sponsor a woman through Women for Women International or through another one of the great organizations doing similar work.
  3. learn more: http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures#notes

The AWC Berlin participates in the 16-Day-Campaign against Gender-Based-Violence.  Each day, we highlight an aspect of GBV to raise awareness and call on our membership to take one small action to fight against violence against women.

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