No More Rape (November 2010)

Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo — I have been back in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), for two weeks now meeting with leaders, activists, social workers, therapists, recent survivors, business owners, UN officials. There is good news and bad news. The bad news is that the situation on the ground remains the same if not worse. Just a few weeks ago more than 600 women were raped on the Congo-Angola border, and more than 15,000 women have been raped in Eastern Congo this year. The massacres and recruiting of child soldiers continue. The indiscriminate and random killings rage on.

The good news is that there is palpable change in the women. Just last month, the Women’s World March brought out thousands of Congolese women who vocally and proudly stood up for their rights. The women of Congo have broken the silence and are claiming their voices and vision. They are resilient and brilliant. They have huge dreams and ambitions (even if they are often muted by the massive trauma and violence). They are outspoken leaders and visionaries and they could and should lead Congo out of her misery. They are indeed building a movement. There is AFEM, a network of women journalists, run by Congolese women reporting on the war and daily news throughout the region. There are the Green Mamas, a collective of survivors who have planted fields of vegetables, and who are not only surviving off the profits, but bringing more and more women into the process. There are hundreds of local women’s groups creating businesses, building leadership, fighting for judicial reform, developing healthcare and education, and there is V-Day’s City of Joy, a revolutionary community for survivors of gender violence where women will turn their pain to power. It opens Feb. 4, and it is owned and run by the Congolese.