Blog: Dispatches from Bukavu and Beyond

22nd Class of Survivors Graduate from the City of Joy, Turning Pain to Power, A Report from V-Day Congo and City of Joy Director, Christine Schuler Deschryver

Last June, the twenty-second class of survivors of violence embarked on a journey to mourn the pain they suffered in their communities. They began a journey to rebuild their lives by releasing the chains that have burdened them to the point of vulnerability.

Six months of leadership training and healing from post-traumatic stress disorder served as a headlight that shone through the shadows created in each woman’s life after her destruction that previously boded no hope in the context of her community haunted by discrimination, women subordination, and the hegemony that perpetuates patriarchy.

The 85 graduates have been compared to hatched water-lilies, their blossoming triggered by the ten tenets of City of Joy to transform pain to power. These tenets are the connecting thread of the City of Joy. The ingredients of the training, the therapy sessions, and the knowledge that the women acquire are the knots that tie up what has been torn apart in the life of each woman.

As they leave the City of Joy, 85 brilliant, brave women are making their entry into more than 60 villages in the provinces of South and North Kivu with a vision to revolutionize their communities and fight against patriarchy and sexism, so that spaces where equality between men and women emerge. The City of Joy is proud to have planted 85 more seeds in the DRC. These seeds symbolize the women whose lives have been changed in six months. They symbolize a light in the darkness.

“85 women were born and raised in communities torn apart by war and all forms of violence against women and girls. In six months, a mission of healing and transformation has been accomplished. The City of Joy cried and shouted for joy with 85 women. It nurtured and protected Mother Nature with these women. It committed to fighting violence against women with 85 women. It taught the women to care for their bodies, open their hearts and tell the truth. It taught women to speak, to walk and to move forward as babies who eventually grow up freely and become responsible for their bodies.” – Christine Schuler Deschryver, V-Day Congo Director & Director of City of Joy

Reassured of the power each woman received at the City of Joy, Dr. Denis Mukwege, 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner, said that the skills of each girl who passes through the City of Joy must be capitalized on by her community. These women will play a vital role in challenging certain degrading social norms that weigh women down. He made an appeal to the leaders of the DRC to recognize the value that each woman represents to make her a leader in her own right.

A collective of City of Joy alumni attended the graduation to cheer on the graduates as they spoke of their transformation, activism, self-reliance, and reintegration into the community.

The City of Joy has graduated 1902 survivors of violence to date, and remains grateful to V-Day, to V (formerly Eve Ensler) and to everyone whose support helps change lives in the DRC.

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Watch the CITY OF JOY Documentary.

City of Joy is a revolutionary leadership center for women survivors of gender violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, co-founded by Christine Schuler Deschryver (City of Joy Director and Director of V-Day Congo), Dr. Denis Mukwege (Nobel Laureate and Founder of the Panzi Hospital), and V (formerly Eve Ensler, Founder of V-Day and One Billion Rising, playwright and activist).