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Workshop for Survivors of Sexual Violence in Kiev

Conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) in Ukraine is ongoing, yet lacks an adequate response. According to the 2018 UN Strategy plan, Ukraine has reportedly been struggling with the challenges around equal and fair justice. Police and military officials lack basic awareness about the issue of CRSV, nor have they an understanding of how to prevent or respond to it. The Strategy Plan included in its recommendations the need to educate security personnel and build capacity of law enforcement and judges. There have been some recent efforts made in Ukraine to enhance gender-awareness and sensitivity in university programs for police and military personnel, and the Government Commissioner for Gender Policy has recognised this need, however, currently no comprehensive survivor-centred training exists for Ukrainian military and police officials.

It is undeniable that survivors themselves are best suited to provide sensitisation and awareness training, yet they are currently absent from the existing educational initiatives aiming to sensitise those in need of such training.

Survivor-led trainings have the ambition to strengthen the rule of law by enhancing access to justice for survivors of SGBV in Ukraine. We wish to move beyond a theoretical ideal of involving survivors, and rather test in practice the impacts of involving them directly as trainers with the selected audience: Military and police cadets and officials. By training this target group on SGBV awareness, legal frameworks, forensics and survivor needs, we can change behaviours and procedures, and make justice more accessible for survivors of SGBV.

The project

This ongoing project aims to address this gap in training, and to enable survivors of sexual violence to take a leading role in addressing the shortcomings around access to justice in Ukraine, through the development and implementation of a survivor-led training for military and police. The project will also test the inclusion of survivors in training implementation, to understand if their participation is an effective way of addressing the gap in knowledge among this group of end-users.

The proposed role of survivors to deliver the training to military and police officials is innovative and aims to test three principles. First, that survivors are best suited to inform police and military about the shortcomings of current pathways to access justice, about the consequences of SGBV, and about survivor needs following violence. Second, that survivor-led trainings are an effective form of survivor participation, as called for by international bodies, in an effort to enhance peace and the rule of law. Third, that the chosen end-users may include perpetrators of SGBV, or individuals who are in contact with perpetrators within their own institutions. Restorative justice theory and practice points to the power of first-hand descriptions of the consequences of SGBV by victims themselves on (potential) perpetrators. Our aim is to close down the institutional behaviours and habits, which enable SGBV.

Trainings around SGBV, commonly recommended when addressing prevention and response to such violence, have been shown to be necessary and effective. The goal of the training will be to raise awareness of SGBV and its consequences, while also emphasising the role that police and military have in preventing and responding to SGBV.

Current status

On March 1 and 2, a training of trainers was delivered by the Mukwege Foundation to nine members of the survivor network. Covering topics such as conceptualizing sexual violence, including men in the response and human rights, the women were able to create their own curriculum that includes their personal perspective on the issue. A legal expert with current experience of forensic requirements provided input on the investigation of SGBV specifically. The first pilot training, in its experimental phase, will include this expert who can support the survivors in the more technical aspects of the trainings, and provide them with case- based support during the development of the curriculum, in addition to enhancing the perceived legitimacy of the trainings towards the target audience. In the coming months, three teams of three women each will conduct trainings near their hometowns.

As the trainings take place, we will continue to update you here and through our SEMA Facebook page. The Mukwege Foundation is grateful to the Knowledge Management Fund for its support in this project.