After two decades of civil war and ongoing conflicts, vulnerable populations throughout the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have continually been pushed off their traditional agricultural land and forced to seek out their livelihood through other means such as artisanal mining. It is estimated that between 500,000 and 2 million people work informally in the artisanal and small-scale mines of the DRC. Workers in these mines suffer a variety of labor and social problems, but recently the question of human rights abuses, specifically sexual violence, has been widely reported by international media and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Recent media coverage has drawn connections between rape against women, armed conflict and natural resource extraction, fuelling a narrative of women being victims of rape by armed groups in the mining areas of eastern DRC. However, little evidence-based research has examined the extent to which these claims best represent the challenges facing women in the mines of eastern DRC.
From 2012 to 2014, the World Bank and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI), designed and carried out a research project to examine the trends and scope of human rights abuses faced by women and men in the mines of eastern DRC. The results of this research challenge the perception that the violence is due to gangs that promote armed conflict, but rather it comes from everyday actors that take advantage of vulnerable populations based on livelihoods, education and economic access.