Since 1996, sexual and gender violence in the Eastern DRC has been used to torture and humiliate women and girls and destroy families. Advocates on the ground estimate that over half a million women and girls have been raped since the conflict began. In addition to the severe psychological impact, sexual and gender violence leaves many survivors with genital lesions, traumatic fistulae, severed and broken limbs, unwanted pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Survivors are regularly ostracized and abandoned by their families and communities. Another added challenge is widespread gender inequity.
In 2007, V (formerly Eve Ensler) was invited to visit Bukavu, DRC by Dr. Denis Mukwege of Panzi Hospital to witness first-hand the atrocities that women were experiencing in the Congo. It was on this trip that V met Christine Schluer-Deschryver, a tireless activist for the rights of Congolese women. Together, they met with dozens of women survivors who voiced a desire for a safe community in which they could heal from their trauma – a City of Joy.
In response to Eve’s fact-finding mission to the Congo, V-Day launched a Congo Campaign, STOP RAPING OUR GREATEST RESOURCE: POWER TO THE WOMEN AND THE GIRLS OF DRC. A joint national campaign in partnership with Unicef and thousands of activists on the ground, the campaign:
- Raised global awareness about the level of gender violence in the DRC
- Advocated for change on local, provincial, national, and international levels
- Provided support to activists in the DRC and around the globe who are working to end the atrocities and change perceptions about gender and sexual violence
- Supported the creation of the City of Joy in Bukavu, South Kivu
The current situation in the Congo – which includes political instability and violence – has not deterred the work of City of Joy. It is as urgent as ever.