Blog: Dispatches from Bukavu and Beyond

City of Joy Update: Highlights from September 2014

The City of Joy continues to thrive as the sixth class of women move through the programing and classes. Director Christine Schuler-Deschryver shares this update on their coursework and trainings. For more information on the transformational work being done in Bukavu please visit the ABOUT section:

“All is going beautifully at the City of Joy. Women continue to find a great sense of empowerment through the program and each day feels full of possibility. It is a gift to be part of this incredible community of healing and exploration. Following is a brief overview of some of our program highlights. We all send our love from Bukavu!”

Christine Schuler-Deschryver,

Director, V-Day Congo and City of Joy

September 2014, Buakvu

Therapy gathering

Last month women shared their lifelines. They went through the hardships which they experienced, symbolized by stones, and good moments, which they symbolized by flowers that characterized their lives. They learned to release what still prevents them from blossoming.

This month, the core element or theme during the gatherings was self-discovery. At City of Joy self-discovery is mostly based on the discovery of one’s weaknesses and strengths. Considering the difficulties every woman experienced, the latter was taught to discover a lot of factors outside of her that contributed largely to how she would define herself. She was invited to cite her weaknesses and her strengths. The weaknesses received much attention because all the residents were highly invited to work on them.

Confidence was a strategy we used to have every woman open herself and share more about what she still keeps as secret. In order to attain the aim of the month, social workers applied the technique of guided blind, in which women are blindfolded and need help from somebody in order to walk properly. During the walk, women shared once more their strengths and weaknesses and helped one another not only to transcend themselves but also to love one another.

The other technique that helped women was the release. In consideration of some weaknesses that women still have, in view of their thrill to heal and become good leaders who are capable to take up space in their communities, every woman was invited to practice the technique of RELEASE which consists of getting rid of, letting go, and ignoring all the hardships she went through in order to build a brilliant future.

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Confidence results from love, listening, help, openness, and sharing


Women who came illiterate enjoy the benefits of literacy. They prefer spending time in the classroom writing and reading nouns, sentences and conversational drills. They want to be corrected in order to improve the four language skills (listening, reading, writing, and speaking).

In the subject of Kiswahili, much of this month concerned the reading and writing of such consonants as p, s, r,v,y, and w and such diphthongs as mb, mp,ms,mr,mv,my,and mw. After the reading of these consonants and diphthongs, the booklets of zero tolerance were given to pupils for more practice and improvement of the aforesaid language skills.

In calculation, subtraction and multiplication was taught to women and in French the National Anthem was taught and sung.

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From illiteracy to literacy because of the City of Joy transformative ingredients

Civic and political education

During the month the trainer discussed two concepts with the learners – national consciousness and national unity. National consciousness was explained in a very simple manner so as to let the learners understand that it is a shared sense of national identity. It is a shared understanding that groups of people share a common ethnic/linguistic/cultural background. National consciousness is how a whole group of people (the nation) may see things and life or how they think the majority sees things. It is how the majority of people in a country view most things or commonly held beliefs in that country, even if all of them aren’t unique to that country and the particular combinations of belief and would include culture, religion possibly and how they see their country.

Considering all the difficulties (war) the country has gone through, the teaching of the month was a call for national consciousness whereby the trainer invited the trainees to consider the welfare of all the nations rather than remaining attached the their cultures or beliefs they inherited from their parents or forefathers. It was, to some extent, a call to break all chains which separate people of one country from one another. To make it clear, the trainer continued explaining the four degrees of consciousness which are the keys of a harmonious and balanced development of a country. She broadly talked about socialized consciousness, critical consciousness, transformative consciousness, and reformative consciousness.

In sum, the discussions with the trainees led to the understanding that national consciousness is an interior run up, a feeling that pushes a citizen to feel that he/she entirely belongs to a national community by culture, history, and identity that she/he shares with other people.

As for national unity, it is an indivisible nature/character of a nation which becomes an ideal. It is a nationalist feeling that must enliven the hearts and the virtues of very citizen. It is a feeling of solidarity with others.


Women continued to practice the knitting techniques they learned last month to make face cloths, tablecloths, etc. manually. In addition, this month they were initiated to make these craft products mechanically as two pictures below display.

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Making tablecloths and practicing knitting techniques mechanically


After the initiation to measure, to cut, and to baste, women sewed skirts last month. They also started acquiring techniques of sewing shirts and other clothes. In September 2014, 80 percent of learners were able to measure, to cut, to baste, and to sew shirts.

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Shirts made by women

Self defense

90 women of City of Joy will be trained in self-defense for two months. The first month was based on the theory and the beginning of some practical techniques. The theory included teaching women how to avoid dangerous zones as the forest. They learned that they mustn’t walk a long distance with people they do not know; they were told to remain alert to the signs of the time, etc.

When the practice started, all women were invited to keep everything they acquire as a secret because the idea is to train them in how they will protect themselves from the danger of rape or any assault, and the way to defend themselves in case of measure beyond control. The pictures bellow display different techniques women acquired and practiced in their training groups.

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Practice of self-defense techniques in groups

Computer literacy

Since last month, women are making exercises of typewriting. In addition to that, they worked on developing Internet skills. They were told to search for data, to copy from the Internet and create a file during the first three weeks. The last week of the month, the learners were introduced to create private e-mail addresses with Gmail, including attaching a document, Facebook accounts, etc.

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Theatre is a gift to us in that it allows us to temporarily immerse ourselves in another world. It makes us free to feel and think the way we want. It stimulates all our senses in a way which is more personal and immediate.

With a view to help women in their healing process, theater is used at City of Joy as drama for therapy. Its main objective is to help women heal through theater. It is used not only to relax women during the training and performances but also to capture their attention completely and stimulate their thoughts and emotional healing process.

As a therapeutic tool, theater is also used at City of Joy creatively to deal with the problems of women. It helps them accept what they went through, transcend themselves and release it. In this way, theater is a form of counseling because it is a talk therapy consisting of thought-provoking conversations which aim to increase the women’s self-awareness.

In addition to the healing ingredients women had in therapy gatherings with social workers through storytelling, experience sharing, lifeline, etc., drama therapy comes to provide a physical outlet. It rests on the key premise that a creative art is a force that has the power to heal.

After the explanation of the aim of the training, trainers combined words with actions. They used the technique of psychodrama in which the women were asked to act out certain roles or incidents in the presence of the audience (other residents of City of Joy, theater trainers, and the social workers) as the pictures below display.

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Role playing 


The training in communication was done in the three groups. Groups A and B ended last month and group C this month. After teaching the basics of communication – origin, development, authorities, and forms of communication), the last two weeks were mostly based on how to communicate through the media and practice. After the women had acquired all the techniques to communicate through the media, for example, how to collect data, to process and communicate them on the media, they went to the Congolese National Radio and TV station downtown for practice during six days (2 days per group) for 2 hours. The pedagogical implication of this training is that all the participants are determined to become radio correspondents in their villages because they know well the ins and outs of appropriate communication.

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