Since January, a group of 85 women survivors of sexual and gender-based violence have been sheltered at the City of Joy, the revolutionary center in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for training in emotional healing and leadership skills development.
The graduation marked a breaking turning point, where after six months of training and healing, laughing and smiling, dancing and dressing wounds, and embracing and counseling, we could place our hopes in 85 women who, as one of them said, are needed to make change happen in the DRC.
The 23rd class transformed their pain into power, releasing their suffering and investing in the reconstruction of their lives. These women have actually transcended what they have been through. They have learned to break the silence. They have acquired power to break the glass ceiling. They have knowledge to demand their rights. They are true citizens who will cast a useful vote.
The team at City of Joy and the audience who gathered at the graduation ceremony witnessed their positive mind and vision with joy and excitement,
With the nineteen hundred eighty seven women who have graduated to date, the City of Joy is proud to sow the seeds of revolution in the DRC. These 85 women will join more than 60 villages on June 23rd, financially independent and as leaders. “We have become makers of change. The six months spent in the City of Joy has transformed us into people capable of changing paradigms, opposing retrograde customs, denouncing evil and breaking the silence in complete freedom. Our lifeline must now bear more flowers than stones.” – Spokeswoman for the 23rd class, City of Joy
On a stage, a local band of slam poets performed a piece depicting the life of Congolese women whose bodies are a battlefield that men destroy, infect, and kill.They have also appreciated the community of City of Joy and V-Day who are committed to fighting forms of violence against women.
“The six months spent with the women is proof that transformation is possible, hope is possible in the DRC, and that change will come from the bottom/base and never from the top. She called on the Congolese women to create a society where violence against women is not tolerated – not tolerated in families, by the police, and by the justice system. We should make the violence against women an emergency so as to erase violence from our culture – from schools, from workplaces, everywhere.” – Christine Schuler Deschryver, Co-Founder and Director, City of Joy
Bukavu, 23, June 2023
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). 12 years since it first opened, the City of Joy is thriving, with a network of 1987 graduates who are transforming the very fabric of Congolese society and inspiring women everywhere. Designed by Congolese survivors, it is a place that restores women’s sense of agency over their lives as they learn real, practical life skills to feed their futures, and connects them to the global V-Day movement, one billion strong. From the return of warmth and joy into women’s lives, to a reconnection to their bodies, to the empowerment each woman feels when she masters a new skill or acquires life-changing knowledge, the City of Joy gives women a platform to transform their pasts into fuel for a revolution of the mind, body, and community.
Photos: Carlos Schuler