This story is part of World Pulse’s Democratic Republic of Congo Regional Focus Campaign to End Violence Against Women. These testimonies, along with hundreds of others, were delivered to the 2013 African Union Summit.
World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
Listening to the Voices of Congo’s Women
From a homegrown Internet café in Eastern DRC, 200 Congolese women leaders have come online for the first time.
These women are sharing their stories and calling on the international community to take action. Meet six of these courageous survivors who each bring strong recommendations for moving DRC toward peace.
A Voice for a United Congo
I was born in a very remote village of South Kivu Province in Eastern Congo. I remember those early years of community, when each family was part of every family around them. We lived and worked together and in support of one another, as if we were all close relatives. Due to the richness of the land and our relationship to one another, we wanted for nothing. Even as the virus of racial separation injected by our colonizers began to infect our remote setting, we still lived above that ideology.
But after the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide fled to my province in 1994, bringing an utter hatred of my ethnicity and a demand for our annihilation with them, a very different world emerged. I was immediately whisked off to university in another country for safety. And when I was able to return a few years later, it seemed that every tribe now saw itself as separate from another. Division had arisen and the family tie of our nation was broken.
I have lived in this conflict zone and seen horrible atrocities. My own daughter was beaten by police forces for no reason. But I have a vision for my country that compels me. It is a big shift, but I have learned that making the impossible possible simply requires a different set of rules.
I have joined a chorus of Maman Shujaa—Hero Women in Swahili—and in harmony we’re raising our voices with all our might. As the women of Liberia stood together and made their wishes known before their government and the world, so are the women of Congo making our wishes known. Abraham Lincoln fought for the rights of those who had been given no rights. We too are tired of being enslaved by the brutal and unbridled passions of unprincipled men and nations.
We need the world to unite with us for Peace’s sake, for all of Congo’s sake, and for the sake of the entire world with which we are One.
A Voice Against Violence
My homeland is the Democratic Republic of Congo—the second largest African country, found at the center of this great continent. We share a border with Zambia, Angola, Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and the Republic of Congo.
The beauty of DRC is due to a rich fauna and flora that attracts many international tourists. The east of our country is engorged with vegetation, minerals, and animals like the okapi, mountain gorillas, and hippopotamuses. This is why the East of Congo is of interest to so many in the world, with many wishing to exploit us. Sometimes it feels like violence and war is inevitable as long as our country has all of this richness and beauty.
In DRC, we are victims of war and we are handicapped by profound poverty. As a mother of six (two boys and 4 girls) and an educator—even with my own financial difficulties—the effects of sexual violence on the women of my community has always been my preoccupation. The military and other negative forces, such as the ex-Rwandan army, regularly violate the bodies of women. Women are forced to accept this violence as part of life, or pay with their lives. Women are not only shell-shocked from these violent acts, but also contract sexually transmitted diseases, which causes their husbands to reject them. In fact, a woman who has been raped no longer merits the love of her husband and is treated as unworthy in society.
Impunity is in full effect in DRC, yet those who commit these acts walk along in good health and the government takes no responsibility—especially for victims of sexual violence. It is necessary that women survivors receive assistance from local and international organizations. These women require not just physical care but also moral, educational, and psychological support.
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