PulseWire Member's Testimony to US Senate on violence against women in DR Congo
On September 8, The Association of Media Women of South-Kivu (AFEM), the organization founded by PulseWire member Chouchou Namegabe, received death threats to its members, mentioning by name 3 women journalists, 2 from Radio Okapi and Radio Maendeleo 1. Faced with these threats, AFEM is struggling to continue its work because the origin of these threats is unknown and journalists continue to be targeted in South Kivu, where 3 journalists were killed in 3 years.
However, in spite of these threats, Chouchou and her colleagues continue to speak out to promote women's rights and encourage women's freedom of expression through media. Earlier this year, Chouchou testified before the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the Hearing on “Confronting Rape and Other Forms of Violence Against Women in Conflict Zones”. A transcript of her powerful testimony is attached, as well as the introduction of her speech.
Testimony of Chouchou Namegabe, Founder, South Kivu Women’s Media Association
Thank you for having this important hearing. The women of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have waited a long time for American policy-makers to take an interest in this situation. I am grateful for the invitation to be here.
Rape and sexual violence is used as a weapon and tactic of war to destroy the community. The rapes are targeted and intentional, and are meant to remove the people from their mineral-rich land through fear, shame, violence, and the intentional spread of HIV throughout entire families and villages.
The South Kivu Women’s Media Association is the voice of thousands of voiceless women. We use radio to give them the space to express what has happened to them, begin their healing and to seek justice. We have interviewed over 400 women in South Kivu, and their stories are terrifying. In fact, the word rape fails to truly describe what is happening, because it is not only rape that occurs, but atrocities also accompany the rapes. That is what makes the situation in the eastern Congo so different, and horrible. [....]
The women ask WHY? Why such atrocities? Why do they fight their war on women’s bodies? It is because there is a plan to put fear into the community through the woman, because she is the heart of the community. When she is pushed down, the whole community follows.
We also ask, Why the silence of the developed countries? When a gorilla is killed in the mountains, there is an outcry, and people mobilize great resources to protect the animals. Yet more than five hundred thousand women have been raped, and there is silence. After all of this you will make memorials and say “Never Again.” But we don't need commemorations; we want you to act now.
[For the complete transcript, see attached pdf]