Turning pain to power: City of Joy in Bukavu

Eve Ensler [V-Day founder] and Congolese Activist Christine Schuler Deschryver [director of V-Day Congo] discuss with Amy Goodman, the opening of the City of Joy in Bukavu which will be run by survivors of rape in the eastern Congo. The American Journal of Public Health published a report this month which estimates more than two million women have been raped in the DRC since 2006.

CHRISTINE SCHULER DESCHRYVER: The City of Joy is really like a dream that is coming true, because it was something that was created by the Congolese women. And at the beginning, it was just like a dream. And thanks to V-Day, who was like the wind behind our back, it becomes a reality. And we started receiving the first women like two weeks ago. So we are in the process. And it’s all amazing. I left Congo like two weeks ago. And every time I’m with them on the phone, they have new things. It’s like it really belongs to the Congolese women. So I just told them, “As long as we respect, you know, our budget and the program, just go on.”

Last December in Walikale between 400 and 500 women were raped despite the presence of UN forces. Eve Ensler made a number of points on the failure of the UN forces to protect women: economic and corporate interests and the merging of these with those of governments, both foreign and the DRC; most of all a lack of will and intention to protect women against sexual violence.

And I think until we really understand what sexual violence does, what one rape does to a woman’s life, how it determines the rest of her existence, how her whole life will be shaped by that and robbed by that, how it will determine her self-esteem, her ability to be intimate, her ability to connect, her ability to have a job, her confidence, her ability to–the way she treats her boy children–until we understand the magnitude of one rape, there will really be no–because I think it’s all about intention in the end. I really do.

Similar to Haiti, millions and millions of $US are being spent but never reach the people – where does the money go? And like Haiti the DRC is full of NGOs feeding off the poor to pay their salaries and keep them in comfort to “take care of the Congolese” people. Millions of $US are spent on UN ‘peacekeepers’ and support personnel but no one knows what they do for Haiti or the DRC. Christine Schuler Deschryver calls for an audit of the DRC and accountability of NGOs working in the region.

CHRISTINE SCHULER DESCHRYVER: An expat, that means they decided to bring, like, people from outside to take care of the Congolese. So all the monies go to the salaries, to their comfort, to their cars and everything. And at the end, you just have few parts left for the Congolese. They don’t even give enough jobs. And when they have jobs, they are not paid……….And I think, slowly, you know, that the Congolese have to take their power back and decide how the money has to be used, because all this money goes to the outside debt from Congo. And they are not–they don’t even take benefit of that money. And that’s something that really gets me so mad, because it’s like everyone has his conscience and say, “We gave this amount of millions to Congolese. But what for?” You know, it’s like for the U.N. What for? What are they really doing for the Congolese?