The community of City of Joy is proud to share their experience in graduating 90 women survivors of gender violence on June 27th, 2016 who came from different villages and started their journey to transform pain to Power in January 2016. During their stay these women had time to link all the chunks of their bodies and minds which were disconnected after they had survived grave violations. They had trauma that caused great losses and profound despair in their life.
The healing that each woman had in six months focused mostly on the sharing of her overwhelming experiences and memories she never dealt with in her community because nobody helped her to do so and because she was ‘too ashamed’ and she ‘ feared that she might be assaulted again’. Also, the healing focused on each woman’s personality structure and on the disturbances that resulted in her individual system of thoughts, emotions and beliefs.
Treatment was planned gradually and in such a way that each woman directly addressed the painful memories of her life and the accompanying affect for the resolution of her headache to facilitate her reconnection to self. To make this treatment succeed city of joy social workers had to cope with some character defenses and developmental disruptions during the process in individual counseling and/or therapy and group therapy. In the course of their healing process, women learned to “put/let their trauma behind them” so that the reconstruction of their life may be possible.
The relationship that 90 women had with the community of City of Joy (social workers, cooks, caring managing staff, the environment, etc.) was the foundation of the therapeutic process in addition to the ten tenets to Transform Pain to Power. It was a sort of relationship that facilitated the survivor’s integration of self and offered a corrective experience to shift from despair to a stance of trust, self-worth, and acceptance and active engagement and vision to build a brilliant future. This stance was monitored in the everyday experience women had with their social workers and the community with respect and kindness as they were on their way to healing from trauma by repairing effectively the damage they suffer because of the harsh, tragic event they survived.
During the 9th class, we have had new strategies and used new approaches/techniques to attain our objectives. Mindfulness was one of the therapeutic approaches that helped women reduce stress and depression while improving brain function and increasing their well-being. It also helped 90 residents of City of Joy get energy and be aware and awake to every moment of their daily life. We also inserted in the program the practice of relaxation therapy techniques- such as deep breathing, meditation, rhythmic exercise- that we used as a process to decrease the effects of stress on each woman’s mind and body. The two new approaches were used under the guidance and supervision of the Director of city of joy after training social workers.
In the genesis of City of Joy, V-DAY wanted to have an integrated community of people who really care for one another. City of Joy has been moving with such a spirit of togetherness and loving relationship. This community has created unbreakable bonds with its residents by watering and growing amaranths and corn in the garden and feed rabbits together, by doing community work every Friday together, etc. The staff of City of Joy plays the role of protectors. The affectionate mother-daughter relationship has found its real meaning since the beginning of the creation of City of Joy and its results are praiseworthy.
The graduation day was an exceptional day at City of Joy and in the life of each woman of the 9th session. It gave hope. 90 women who celebrated themselves and their healing were happy to have healed from their past trauma. They were happy to start a JOURNEY OF REVOLUTION. They were elated to be the seeds which have been planted to change the history of the Congo. They joined a group of 669 incredible women who are thriving as leaders in their communities.
On the graduation, two messages attracted the attention of participants. Firstly, women who came filled with uncertainty, self-pity, fear and hopelessness declared that they have stayed in an engine of transformation and are ready to join their communities with power, confidence, self-esteem and determination. Secondly, the audience got informed of the promise of each woman who made a wow to develop their community through initiative taking, challenging the existing degrading ways and customs, etc. In addition, they insisted that all the ingredients of their training and healing will be translated into action because they are decided to act as full-fledged members of their communities and initiate self-help activities for their economic independence as they learned in sewing, nutrition, culinary arts, animal husbandry, and agriculture and demand their rights as they were trained in gender rights, judicial proceeding, comprehensive sexuality education, pacific coexistence, etc.
We would recall that women declared that they master and own the “City of Joy approach” and as they make part of this community, they will become City of Joy partners in their communities in the future. They insisted that they will select and lead other women who have survived inhuman acts to follow their steps of transforming Pain to Power and becoming community change makers.
The end of the graduation day was characterized by many emotions. The graduates thought they were cutting the apron ties with city of joy. They had difficulties to accept to leave the next day. But the promise “to go back to their communities and lead” they made along their journey pushed them to hold themselves and go for a new journey.
The City of Joy model is changing lives and building communities. The fight will continue until violence stops. With the aim to promote self-financing for graduates, V-DAY raised $20,000 US on the anniversary of Eve Ensler. This amount will purchase plots of land for collectives of graduates. They will be theirs. By working these plots of lands, graduates will increase their economic empowerment and independence and boost development in their families and communities.
We thank V-DAY and Mama Eve Ensler for caring and helping Congolese women survivors of gender violence have their dreams come true,
We thank all our donors and friends who can’t cease joining and supporting us in our fight.
With V-love and gratitude!