Blog: Dispatches from Bukavu and Beyond


Photo: Patrick Lwaboshi

28 June marked the completion of training in women’s leadership and emotional healing for 89 residents of the City of Joy who have been recruited to transform their pain into power. Since January, this 25th graduating class has been on a journey to celebrate the victory over the trauma they have suffered as a result of the destruction of their lives and the sabotage of their dignity as women. These women had the time to accept themselves, to fight and to rebuild their lives. They have been able to tell the story of all the steps they have taken to turn the dark, shady page of their existence and begin to write a new one.

The psychotherapy sessions they have undergone, the capacity-building training they have received and the knowledge and assets they have developed for their livelihood have enabled them to come to terms with their bodies, accept themselves and aim higher.

Photos: Carlos Schuler

“The City of Joy is a transformation engine, a healing oasis and a place of joy and vivacity where all the girls receive consideration, love, encouragement, healing and dressing of their wounds. It’s a place where they’ve had the opportunity to rebuild themselves, to mourn their suffering, to gain momentum and to listen to their bodies. The City of Joy is the place where the seeds of revolution are sown to grow, blossom and reach other women whose lives had become darkened by male hegemony, patriarchy, war, discrimination, plundering of natural resources, dispossession of women and the poor.” – Spokeswoman for the COJ residents

The City of Joy has been honored by the bravery, charm and determination of 89 women who have reached the end of their training and emotional healing,” stated Christine Schuler Deschryver, co-founder and director of City of Joy before she declared with confidence that the City of Joy triggers new opportunities for success, victory and life change, etc.

Congolese women are the gateway to the needed revolution in the Congo. And women who know how to protect the environment, women who have long been muzzled and ostracized, women who are peace activists, women who fight for freedom and gender equality but who have the hope of recovering their rights, their dignity and conquering the space of development, find the true meaning of life in the City of Joy, declared a resident in a performance.

Dr. Mukwege, the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who took part in the closing ceremonies, said he was pleased to see that the City of Joy continues to build lives and contribute to the world that should be – one where women are respected and valued. He was also pleased to see that women who were once victims of violence are now smiling and strong after six months of psycho-emotional care. He remains confident that “if all Congolese women became knowledgeable of their rights like those at the City of Joy, the DRC would be the capital of women’s leadership.” Addressing the graduates, he described the City of Joy as “the prototype of a paradise where women live freely and to the full potential of their lives.” He thanked V-Day and Mama V for their neverending support and honored the V-Day Congo team for their impressive work done at the City of Joy.

Photos: Carlos Schuler

The spokeswoman told the audience that the graduates feel free as they have pushed away the trauma they had. She concluded by saying that the City of Joy will never regret having transformed the lives of women who have turned into leaders.

Sadly the war in Congo rages on. We can heal our girls but it’s unbearable that we have to send them home to unsafe zones. But, we are happy to have been among the people who have helped 89 women heal, speak, dance, tell the truth about what they have been through, make plans for their economic independence and be ready to join their communities to make a difference.

We will continue to do our work in spite of many obstacles.

Our deepest GRATITUDE always to our dearest Mama V and the entire V-Day family. Keep being the wind at our backs with the hope that one day we can fly by ourselves.

Love always,
Christine Schuler Deschryver
Co-Founder and Director of City of Joy and V-World Farm
V-DAY CONGO Representative


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WATCH Christine’s TED Talk and the feature length documentary CITY OF JOY (Netflix)

Photos: Carlos Shuler