THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
A group of dedicated doctors working at the Panzi Hospital in the Democratic of Congo (DRC) are sewing women’s bodies back together. The women have been torn apart by rape and are waiting for fistula surgery. They are in excruciating pain, their bodies leaking urine and feces. Dr. Denis Mukwege, is the director of the hospital located in Bukavu, a town that is overflowing with people escaping a war that has raged in the Kivu region for over a decade. This war –a genocide that has claimed the lives of more then 4 million –has gone largely unreported. It is a crisis of monolithic proportions.
The targets of this genocide are the women and girls. The “lucky” ones make it to Panzi where they are treated, if possible. The grounds of the hospital are filled with hundreds of women as old as 80 and girls as young as five. Everyday, a dozen additional women arrive. One can’t help but think about the hundreds of others, in the bush, unprotected, dying, who will never get the help they need.
In May and November 2007 I traveled with Eve Ensler, the founder of V-Day, to Bukavu. V-Day was committed to building a community called “The City Of Joy.” It would be a place where women and girls who could no longer return to their villages because of continued violence would have a chance of a future – one that they would be able to build for themselves.
We returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo for the third time in September 2008. Twelve women in both Goma and Bukavu broke silence. For the first time ever, in public ceremonies, they courageously told their stories of sexual violation. Hundreds of people, including the Governor of South Kivu region, listened to their testimonies.
Since the completion of the building of the City of Joy in 2011, hundreds of girls have healed and graduated and returned to their own villages and set up women’s centers, community gardens and clinics.
On February 14th, 2013, along with the hundreds of thousands of women all over the world, the women of the DRC were RISING. It was a wild celebration of women dancing together — women who will not be deterred from claiming their power or creating a world that is determined by their needs, rights and desires.