On Monday in Bukavu, 82 women graduated from the City of Joy. The six months of leadership training and healing from post-traumatic stress disorder served as a headlight that shone through the darkness created in each woman’s life. After her physical and mental destruction from an environment haunted by discrimination, subordination, patriarchy, religion, and culture, everything seemed hopeless. In our communities, when women are raped or violated, most of the time, they are chased from their families and villages and repudiated as wives. This is the reason most of them decide to keep the silence that slowly kills them, they are ashamed and even feel guilty. Now that they know their rights, how to break the silence, how to get justice, and to communicate, it completely changes their lives. They are ready to share what they’ve learned with their communities and help their sisters and mothers break the cycle of violence.
In the context of elections, we really insist on the importance of voting, and teach how and why to choose their leaders. They are now true citizens who will cast a useful vote, especially since they will choose their first president and deputies in the upcoming election.
They also understand why we have to protect and save our mother Earth which is destroyed the same way we as women are destroyed. They know how urgent it is to plant trees, recycle, nourish the soil, and spread the word in all communities as an emergency for humanity. Global warming is a fact and we all live in the same house.
82 women are now graduated and ready to transform and revolutionize their communities. Their blossoming was triggered by the tenets of City of Joy – to transform all of their pain to superpowers. The ingredients of the training, the therapy sessions, and the knowledge that the women acquire are the knots that tie up what has been dismembered in the life of each woman.
82 women will return to their communities in more than 60 villages in the provinces of South and North Kivu. They will bring with them a vision to revolutionize mentalities and end violence, deforestation, sexism, and patriarchy. They will create spaces where women and girls will be free and safe.
City of Joy is proud to have planted 82 more seeds of revolution in the DRC. These seeds symbolize the power and leadership of these young women; they symbolize victory. These women will play a critical role in their communities. They have all the tools, and trust me, they will use them.
These women have learned to break the silence. They have acquired the power to break the glass ceiling.
DEEPEST GRATITUDE to Mama V, our V-Day team in the US and all over the world, and all our donors and supporters. It wasn’t an easy session due to ongoing wars and many obstacles in the different regions from where our girls came but the work is done and our mission has been accomplished successfully.
When I looked at the women at their graduation ceremony as they walked across the stage like queens, so fierce and transformed, not only physically but mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, I knew exactly why I woke up every morning and what fueled my strength, commitment, and endless love.
They are the future and ones who will change this country. When they left City of Joy, each woman left with her key, the key to her life, and I know they will use it with complete responsibility. My heart is exploding with joy.
Christine Schuler Deschryver
V-Day Congo and City of Joy Director/Co-Founder
December 20th 2023
Photos: Christine Schuler Deschryver and Carlos Schuler