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Congolese Women’s Campaign Against Sexual Violence in the DRC

February 12, 2010

As I’ve mentioned before, this year’s V-day Campaign is centered around sexual violence against women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 10% of the profits of ANY Vagina Monologues performance you go to worldwide will be donated to the City of Joy, a facility for the survivors of sexual violence in Bukavu which will support women’s to healing process and provide them with opportunities to develop their leadership. (The other 90% goes to a local women’s shelter)

I think it’s important to know the background to the crisis in the DRC. It’s also important to know some sense of the scope. That the war, involving 8 countries, 20+ armed groups, and 210 languages has claimed some 5.4 million lives and displaced over 2.8 million. On top of this incredible tragedy is the prevalence of sexual violence against women. I have not found any firm statistics of the number of women affected by sexual violence (it’s a cirme that goes frequently unreported globally) but in the province of South Kivu alone, local health centers report that an average of 40 women are raped daily.

Sexual violence is not an inevitable feature of war. Treating it as such only encourages impunity for perpetrators and often silences survivors. UNAction Against Sexual Violence in Conflict is a great resource and movement for understanding sexual violence as a tactic of war:

Sexual violence has been dismissed as random acts of individual soldiers. But in armed conflict, rape is also often a military tactic, serving as a combat tool to humiliate and demoralize individuals, to tear apart families, and to devastate communities. Armed forces use sexual violence as the spoils of war for soldiers who see the rape of women as their entitlement. Lawlessness allows perpetrators to act with impunity and leaves survivors with little to no recourse.

The extreme violence that women suffer during conflict foes not arise solely out of the conditions of war; it is directly related to the violence that exists in women’s lives during peacetime.

What should be emphasized most, however, in hearing that statistics that shock and scare, and seeking to understand the structural nature of this violence, is the incredible strength and resilience of the women in the Congo. What Nicholas Kristof gets wrong, in columns like “Orphaned, Raped, and Ignored” is that he presents these women as victims, rather than survivors. He explains his reasons for doing this, that inevitably the American public will only respond to stories of extreme tragedy. The story of incredibly powerful women surviving through oppression is less sexy, maybe, but it’s the truth.

The documentary The Greatest Silence highlights some of the women that are turning pain into power and reclaiming their communities. Like Major Munyole, of the National Police. Munyole, who works out of a wooden shack, is a one-woman special victims unit in charge of investigating sex crimes in the eastern DRC.

And so, what is a woman? The woman is the mother of a nation. He who rapes a woman, rapes an entire nation. When a woman is exposed to that kind of violence, it’s the entire country that is affected by it. – Major Munyole

A group of women show this same amount of strength is the Congolese Women’s Campaign Against Sexual Violence in the DRC , an initiative launched by women’s associations in Eastern DRC to bolster the fight against sexual violence.

Without your support, our action will lose momentum. Without our partnership, your action will have little impact. Help us change the direction of the fight against sexual violence in the DRC.
Click here to sign the petition.

I am in serious awe of the women in the DRC. To be faced with such violence and to continue to live, to support, to speak up, shows such incredible power and strength that I can only aspire to.

To learn more about these powerful women, come to the Congo teach-in next Thursday at 8 in the LDC. And be sure to be at the Vagina Monologues performance this Saturday to see powerful women on your own campus speaking up!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 13, 2010 2:32 AM

    CNN did an interview with President Kabila on the subject of sexual violence in the Congo in 2006 (when he was running for office). I found it very interesting at the time.

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