For the past two months, I’ve been working on a feature story for our quarterly magazine Every Child that focuses on the rape epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As a woman and mother of a daughter, this has been an extremely disturbing subject to tackle.
|© UNICEF/HQ07-0244/Giacomo Pirozzi|
|Girls stand outside their school at the Djabal refugee camp, near the town of Goz Beida in south-eastern Chad. The majority of the camp’s residents have fled here to escape the ongoing conflict in Sudan’s Darfur Region. UNICEF provides the camp with education, therapeutic feeding, and water and sanitation services.|
This form of violence not only plagues the DRC. It’s a problem in just about every conflict situation around the world. Rape has become so common that many people accept it as a byproduct of war, as if it were something natural and beyond anyone’s control. Even more appalling is that many rape victims are children”some as young as four years old.
In Sudan’s Darfur region, rape is a widespread tactic used by warring militias to intimidate and terrorize communities. Many of these sexual attacks occur when girls venture into the wilderness to collect firewood that is essential for boiling water and cooking.
Since the start of the conflict in Darfur, UNICEF has been helping children survive through immunization, nutrition and clean water programs. Now, UNICEF is helping protect young girls by providing fuel-efficient stoves.
The idea may sound strange. But these fuel-efficient clay stoves require half the wood used by regular stoves. And for girls, this means less wood to collect, fewer trips to the wilderness, and ultimately, a greatly reduced risk of assault.
So far, UNICEF has trained more than 500 women to make these special stoves, which have benefited hundreds of girls and their families. It’s another example of UNICEF’s unique use of innovation”one of many simple (yet brilliant) and cost-effective ideas that protect children and help them survive.
What other innovative ideas do you think can help children today? How else can UNICEF protect young girls from violence?