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Women Graduate from Sexual Violence Survivors Program in the Congo

Women Graduate from Sexual Violence Survivors Program in the Congo


In the war torn area of the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo armed rebels rape and pillage women on a regular basis. Since 1996 sexual violence has been used to torture and humiliate women and girls. For them rape is an everyday reality. In fact, hundreds of thousands of women and girls have been raped in the DRC in that time and the numbers continue to grow. In this hopeless and desperate place, one very brave woman saw hope and joy.

Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls and the award-winning playwright and author of The Vagina Monologues is that woman. In Bukavu, Ensler saw a unique opportunity to empower women and girls to change their story by creating the City of Joy, a transformational community for survivors of sexual violence. The City of Joy was created and developed by the women of Eastern Congo to help those suffering from sexual violence to heal and rebuild their lives.

Women who visit the City of Joy can take part in a gender violence survivors program that involves activities such as group therapy, dance classes, theater, self-defense, and sex education. The program also provides women and girls with leadership development, and educational and income-generating opportunities.

Last month, the City of Joy celebrated its first graduating class. Ensler’s words on the celebration and progress made by the women and girls who participated in the program are awe-inspiring.

In a letter to activists about the celebration she writes about some of the inspirational things she saw during the celebration:

Women who could not lift their heads six months ago, strutting across a stage.

Women who despised their bodies, radiating beauty.

Women who had lost their voices, giving speeches that lived not on paper or memory, but in their thoughts.

Women who had stopped sleeping for years exploding with huge dreams.

Women who had become mute from horror, speaking poetry in just learned English.

Women who had stopped moving, knocking down attackers with powerful body shot.

Women who had stopped believing, planning their new jobs, careers, enterprises.

Forty-eight women per hour are raped in the Congo according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health. That’s 1,152 women every day. So many women and girls suffering from sexual violence need a place to go where they can heal and find joy again. Thanks to the City of Joy they now have a place to go.

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Photo credit: Photo by Steve Evans used under a Creative Commons license.

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7:33PM PST on Feb 23, 2012


11:42AM PST on Feb 11, 2012

"The Democratic Republic of Congo" has a problem living up to its name, midly speaking. But thank God for this organization. Really uplifting information. Thanks for sharing! Why is this not addressed by the UN?

4:35AM PST on Feb 8, 2012

I have heard on Democracy Now about some of the activism going on in the Congo and the women involved are amazing and inspiring... There is so much evil in the world... It is good to know that people are pushing back and I will help when I can...

3:09AM PST on Feb 8, 2012

That women can recover from such ordeals shows the enormous strength that women possess. All over the world women and many still immature girls suffer violation both in and out of marriage. Many of them end the torture by commiting suicide either from the shame their culture heaps upon them or inability to endure any more. There is a hidden gender war going on, sidelined by the by all the other civil, religious or politically motivated wars in the news daily. It is not those who are flogged who should feel shame but those who wield the whip.

10:50AM PST on Feb 7, 2012

City of Joy is doing a great job. What is wrong with this picture is that the government is not doing enough to make the abuse and rapes stop. There are obviously no consequences to men of this country who apparently think women are there for their use and abuse. More needs to be done so that more people become aware of this situation and for the world community to demand more from the government of DRC.

5:31AM PST on Feb 7, 2012

Big thank you for al these people wo are helping them.

4:56AM PST on Feb 7, 2012

Thanks for the article.

3:07AM PST on Feb 7, 2012

It is wonderful to read about this. I know there is some acknowledgment in the field of trauma therapy that things that are therapeutic for people in one culture or set of circumstances may not help, or even harm, those in another culture.

I organize an event for survivors of child abuse, rape and domestic violence every year- male and female survivors- in which they get to tell their stories through any means of creativity they choose. And it is amazing to see someone get on that stage and say "I've never told this to anyone before", and then see what comes next. It doesn't un-do the damage, but it is a first step towards healing, and I hope Eve's program is able to fill the DRC with thousands of first steps.

1:23AM PST on Feb 7, 2012

thanks for sharing

12:59AM PST on Feb 7, 2012

What those women have endured is heartbreaking- I am grateful for those who are helping them to rebuild their lives and self-respect.

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