Blog: Dispatches from Bukavu and Beyond

City of Joy Update: Fifth Class Graduates!

On 5 May 2014, we ended our 5th training session with an extraordinary ceremony, which included members of Panzi Foundation DRC and the Chairman of the board, Dr. Denis Mukwege. Partners from the grassroots associates were also present, along with past graduates who came to participate in their sisters’ victory and healing from their traumas.

Our 5th session graduates organized the ceremony themselves with testimonies regarding their radical change in their lifestyle. They testified that they have begun to boldly do things which they could previously never have thought of doing. A woman from the Banyamulenge tribe explained fearlessly that she arrived at City of Joy with a broken, sullied health filled with hatred inherited from the violence she survived in her village. She could not sleep and completely isolated herself for years, she added. At City of Joy, she learned what LOVE and SHARING are. These are the only easy solutions she has owned to release her trauma and leave the abyss, she shouted. Thanks to therapeutic techniques she was taught, she can sleep deeply, love and open herself to others.

During this session, we have given shelter to women from several tribes of Eastern DRC, including Pygmies, whereas these native people have been marginalized from the society for many years.

I was elated. While I was sitting and gazing at them in their most beautifully colored clothes (pagnes) – and they were indeed beautiful, like daffodils – walking elegantly, chanting fiercely the Congolese National Anthem, which all of them learned and comprehended for the first time at City of Joy.


While I was looking at them reciting the ten tenets, which are the “conductive wire” or “backbone” of our whole program to transform pain to power, it was as though they were saying the rosary. I was watching them screaming with laughter, and solemnly telling us that they will go farther with our flag to spread the message of LOVE. After having lived six full months together, they have proved that it is possible to dance and sing together in a multilingual setting where women live in unity and peace. I believed once more that we are still on our way and that the women who are getting trained and healed are the FUTURE of the CONGO. A young lady confided with me that they will answer with love even against the worst cases of violence.

I have watched with eyes filled with love and pride for the achieved work because we planted seeds of revolution with one clear goal: “to create a network of women who will bring the much needed CHANGE so that women can find the place and dignity they deserve in society“.

We have already graduated 401 women. We are preparing the beginning of the sixth training session. A saying from Oscar Wilde inspires and guides me every time: “Always aim for the moon, even if you miss it, you’ll land among the stars”.

When women of the Congo got the idea of City of Joy, the whole world thought we were mad, but because V-Day and Eve Ensler have always had the principle of listening to the grassroots and helping them make their dreams come true, this is the reason for our success. We are not praising ourselves, but I’m proud after 25 years of work.

I can’t end without expressing my feelings of deep gratitude to all those who believed in us, beginning with Eve. We have the privilege to be supported by a group of devoted and extraordinary human beings who have been always by our side since we had our far-fetched dreams.

My gratitude is addressed to the US V-Day team, and a big thank you to our V-Day Congo team members without whom we wouldn’t exist.

Much Love to ALL and again deepest gratitude!

Christine Schuler Deschryver
V-Day Congo Director/ Director City of Joy