Music Therapy After-Care for Sexual Violence Survivors and Other Vulnerable Groups

Organisation: Panzi Foundation USA

Partners: Panzi Hospital, Panzi Foundation DRC, Make Music Matter (Implementation Partner), Jewish World Watch (Funding Partner), Norwegian Church Aid (Funding Partner)

Location: Project base: Panzi Hospital, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Field locations: Panzi Hospital, South Kivu and in the communities of Bukavu and Goma, DRC

Type of grant: Core – implementation

Status: Completed

  • Survivors at the Music Therap program create and share joy with each other, transforming Survivor to Artist to Leader. CreditJeppeSchilder

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  • Inauguration day, Dr M

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  • A Healing in Harmony session in progress. All photos @Jeppe Schilder for Panzi Hospital and Foundations/Make Music Matter.

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  • Adolescents - some dependent children of survivors, some survivors themselves, record powerful songs about their experiences

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  • Image from Panzi and Make Music Matter. Supporting GBV victims

  • Survivors find support in a safe and supportive environment


This project will combine the expertise of the Panzi Hospital and the power of music therapy to help patients and their communities recover, reintegrate, and secure their human rights for the future.

What is the innovation?

A greater understanding of how best to provide treatment for survivors of sexual violence is required to help aid recovery, rather than risking making people’s situations worse.

Rehabilitation, reintegration, and prevention: Music therapy will be provided for treatment/rehabilitation of survivors of sexual violence. The message delivered through this music aims to aid in the reintegration of survivors of sexual violence into the community and can raise awareness that leads to the change necessary for future prevention. The programme will also serve as a beacon to bring more women to the hospital to receive treatment.

Drawing on their experiences, the Panzi staff advocate that survivors want their stories to be told and their situation to be understood as this is a means for helping them heal. Such sharing is often easier to do in song.

The programme was developed and piloted by Make Music Matter in Rwanda with youth as the primary target group. It will now be piloted in Bukavu, DRC, with female survivors of sexual violence through the Panzi Hospital in partnership with Make Music Matter. In the second phase of the project, activities will be scaled up to increase the number of participants and introduce the programme at the Panzi site in Goma.

How does the innovation build on and improve existing humanitarian practice?

All too often humanitarian assistance provided to survivors of sexual violence ends with the treatment of injuries, unwanted pregnancies, fistula and HIV. If counselling is offered, it may not necessarily be incorporated into the whole treatment process, ignoring the very real interaction that exists among physical, psychological, and social traumas. Existing therapies often do not extend to survivors’ families and communities whose trauma resulting from sexual violence must also heal to ensure successful treatment and reintegration.

What materials or research outputs are likely to be produced?

The following materials will be produced in an ethical manner respecting the rights, safety, and privacy of the participants:

  • Music, stories, and pictures shared through a number of channels (locally in the communities, on the radio, through social media) to raise awareness of the issues and provide information to other organisations working in similar fields.
  • A replicable and scaleable model of music therapy integrated into a hospital care programme for survivors of sexual violence will be created, documented, and disseminated for use in other humanitarian response initiatives.
  • Articles for submission to journals will be produced through the International Centre for Research International Centre for Advanced Research and Training (ICART).

Elrha is a registered charity in England and Wales (1177110).

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