Blog: Dispatches from Bukavu and Beyond

City of Joy Update: Highlights from the Fifth Session Report

The City of Joy Director Christine Schuler Deschryver recently released the report City of Joy: Fifth Session Final Report, on the work, experience and commitment to transforming pain into power of the fifth graduating class.  We wanted to share a highlight reel from the report of the incredible work being done on the ground by the Congolese activist and the graduates:

The 90 women who participated in the six-month program which wrapped up in May, 2014 have made great strides and have emerged as leaders for their communities. All the activities, from therapy to training for capacity building, helped the women heal in the face of the impossible and create their destinies on their own terms. With the help of the training and the abundant love that springs from the heart of every person at City of Joy, women who had isolated themselves came back to their selves and blossomed into full-fledged members of City of Joy.

The dedicated social workers at City of Joy who work one-on-one and in group therapy settings use a series of therapeutic methods to tackle the multitude of reactions to trauma including pain, grief, loss, anger, insomnia, shame, and resentment to heal and empower the women. Techniques used include SETH (Safe Embrace Trauma Healing) that works on behavioral change using the tool of listening, NET (Narrative Exposure Technique) that uses storytelling as a way of unlocking power, and symbolism to reflect on the whole arc of their transformations.


In addition to therapy the women participate in a series of capacity building trainings. This session included some incredible training successes and moments of joy including:

Literacy and Communication: New levels of language, French and Kiswahili, and math literacy were achieved throughout the group. Verbal communication skills were also addressed in four regional languages including English.

212833BC-DC01-4E55-93D6-B87776793403[1] B55B357B-BC0A-413B-9B62-9312EC2DBDCD[1]

Civil, Political, and Gender Rights Education: The women participated in rigorous and nuanced discussion of regional, national and local political realities. A deeper understanding of and appreciation for the role that everyone, especially women, play in a democratic society was gained. The women also expanded their toolbox to becoming leaders for gender equality in their communities and have committed to speaking up when they see their and others rights being violated. They were additionally educated on how to use the DRC’s judicial system to see these violations addressed.

Self-Defense: The women trained in non-lethal self-defense methods which can protect them if ever they find themselves under the threat of physical or sexual violence.

Comprehensive Sexual Education: Doctor Mukwege and his assistant taught Comprehensive Sexuality Education at City of Joy.  They received instruction on issues pertaining to human sexuality, including human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual intercourse, reproductive health, abstinence, and birth control or family planning. They also leaned how to protect themselves and their partners from the spread of STIs.

Entrepreneurship and Livelihood Training: The women at City of Joy are eager to move away from a model of dependence and a huge component of this process is self-sustaining income. Women are encouraged to nurture their entrepreneurial spirit and the staff couples that with useful business, accounting and economic lessons. Graduates are prospering in their communities as they run small businesses’ including food stalls, soap-making shops, crafts, knitting and sewing.

FA6670F3-90C5-40C1-B9A4-76FF3E24718B[1] 469D7F5B-EAFC-4949-98C0-F3B2FC85C5B4[1] A72C6CA8-F772-451B-9139-2C6135FB1D32[1] 5D08ED27-6118-45EB-BFEC-719E2953A3D9[2] 20BD5FE9-2E9A-47DE-B863-4B0D67E9EE17[1]

As always we look forward to seeing how these 90 graduates will flourish and lead their families, friends and communities in achieving a society free from violence and that celebrates gender equality. Personal empowerment underscored the whole journey of each woman back to her identity because during and after the training she opened herself, told the truth about what she had gone through and made a decision to fuel a revolution in her community.