The day of March 9th was a day of rising with hundreds of women and men in GUIDO MARIA COMFORTI Parish in Panzi, Bukavu, DRC. The community of City Of Joy was invited by the parish priest – a V-Priest – to have a talk with parishioners so that they can raise their voice and denounce forms of violence and stand against the exploitation of women.
During the talk three speakers gave sharper focus on (1) what VDAY and City of Joy are respectively, (2) the forms of violence, and (3) One Billion Rising Revolution against the exploitation of women and harnessed stronger solidarity with women and demanded an end to violence in all forms.
The first speaker introduced the parishioners to the understanding of VDAY as a movement and to City of Joy as a center where the impossible is made possible thanks to therapy and love and to a leadership program which transforms women and girls survivors of many forms of violence. The speaker explained the creation date of VDAY, the triple meaning of the V in V-DAY, the contents of the VAGINA Monologues, the fight of Eve Ensler, and many more.
The second speaker discussed forms of violence. Her speech had broken some taboos. She was proud to say “VAGINA” in the church. She could not stop talking about women’s rights which are violated by men. She talked about existing gender gaps which are grounded in retrograde ways and customs. She enumerated facts which weigh women down in society. For example, she deplored the deficiency in the education system of DRC where boys and girls don’t have equal chances for education because many families do not value girls. She also talked about the international women’s day and discussed the theme and called parishioners to be bold for change. She called all parishioners to feel concerned and participate in forging a better working world, a more gender inclusive world. She called every woman and man in the church to be committed to helping women and girls achieve their ambitions; challenge conscious and unconscious bias; call for gender-balanced leadership; value women; and create inclusive cultures.
The last speaker explained what One Billion Rising is. He started with its genesis. He explained the mass actions which risers have taken and are still taking since 2013. In a specific case, he took time to explain the three concepts: RISE, DESRUPT, CONNECT.
Why are we rising in 2017?
The speaker shouted and invited parishioners to rise because violence is looming large in communities. So he proved that we must rise against rape and all people who can’t act against it. We should rise against discrimination and inequality in schools, churches, labor places, etc. He continued inviting parishioners to rise against environmental plunder and against multinationals which are looting minerals in our country and in our region. The speaker invited Christians to stand against corporations and the rich who are making more profit off the backs of people’s suffering. The presenter of “what OBR is” invited risers to rise for fair wage, equality, respect, dignity, freedom, equity, etc.
Why do we need to DISRUPT?
Since our aim of rising is to mobilize, denounce, let go, dance, and incite, we need to disrupt because we do not want the epidemic of violence against women and girls to be perpetuated. We need to disrupt because we believe that our action shakes the world and we are a force, power which creates resistance which is able to change paradigms. We need to disrupt in order to shake and rock the world and denounce social constructs which are characterized by plunder, greed, mercenary, corruption, patriarchy, and many other practices and beliefs which degrade women.
What is connection in OBR?
After the explanation of the meaning of rising and disrupt, the speaker also explained the meaning of connection in the fight of this year. He started with a symbol of a buddle of sticks which can’t be broken easily because they are tied. He presented this buddle and related it to the connection which should be born amongst risers who need to sale in the same boat for a common cause. From simple examples taken from real life the speaker explained that risers need to be connected by uniting in all struggles and fight against anything which undervalues women. They need to connect in order to take a new wind and act in unison and be a voice for the unheard through partnership and coalitions.
Why are we fighting the exploitation of women this year in the DRC and across the planet?
Many women in the world in general and in DRC in particular are treated unfairly. Women are rendered vulnerable because they are considered to have no power and no options for survival. Exploitation was explained to the parishioners so that they can understand the heavy load that women carry and the tasks which they do every day, but do not benefit from what they do. The speaker explained exploitation as something which is connected to many forms of violence including economic, domestic, and psychological violence. He gave examples of women who are used as commodities and others who suffer from such other forms of violence as rape, assault and battery, early marriage, etc. and others who are ill-treated and exploited simply because they are women.
We have invited people in church to join the fight and act together to transform beliefs and start educating children by teaching them the principles of gender equality which include tasks distribution between boys and girls, education for all children, respect, etc.
Solidarity was the last subject matter which was treated in the church. After calling parishioners for the rising and after calling them for unity, we have also called them for connection. We told them that being in solidarity with their neighbors, relatives, passers-by, poor people, etc. creates connection, togetherness and unbreakable bonds. We insisted that solidarity does not only call for financial means, it is also a practice which encourages inclusivity between the rich and the poor, intellectuals and illiterates, and men and women and creates power and a gender free society in which every one cares and participates in the change of mindsets .
Done in Bukavu, March 16th, 2017