Graduates of the City of Joy are fierce, capable women committed to their communities and the future of Congo. Our staff takes great care to keep in touch with them as they transition back into life outside of the City of Joy, visiting them on the ground. We believe this is essential work, as our most important legacy will be setting up women to successfully integrate back into the fabric of their family and community networks. We are diligently mapping their progress and will continue to update this page with new stories.
Here is a glimpse into some of the graduates’ lives:
She lives at Mubambiro, in the territory of Masisi at approximately 30 miles from the town of Goma. Her leadership and conduct in her community attracted a great number of women and some men. During the evaluation of her activities, we were so moved to witness a wide range of things she has achieved since she graduated from City of Joy in 2012. If we can dare to write some update notes on her achievements we can say the following:
- Upon her graduation, Evelyn wanted to spread the name and the mission of VDAY throughout her village and community. In this perspective, she visited many families in the village and made testimonies of her change and belonged to a movement of women leaders.
- Evelyn was able to instruct women in their families about women’s rights and family planning as she was trained at City of Joy.
- She became an active member of the parish with the aim to get involved into advocacy for human rights, equal justice and leadership.
- After convincing some women, Evelyn was able to form a group of more than one hundred women who are currently meeting and discussing about some issues such as women’s rights, community based initiatives, children education, etc.
When City of Joy toured the villages of its graduates last two months, we were happy to see that the knowledge that Evelyn acquired at City of Joy was translated into action. We felt a thrill of excitement when we saw that old and young women have testified that they neglected Evelyn at the very start of her activism but were convinced by her fierce, devotion and the materials/knowledge she had. They continued saying that, Evelyn’s fierce, courage, determination and spirit of leadership convinced them to such an extent that they saw in her a new creature that has been revolutionized. She initiated a women’s cooperative of goats. The group started with twenty goats and now they have 37.
Evelyn joined school after her graduation from the City of Joy program. She started grade 10 and held her diploma last year. Today, Evelyn is a teacher in a kindergarten in addition to her leadership in her community.
Jane M. was born in the village of Lulingu, in Shabunda. Lulingu is one of the territories of South-Kivu and one of the worst places for women to be born and live. It is a place where assault and battery, kidnapping, murder and rape are seen at their heights in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is now a 36-year old girl.
After being physically and psychologically destroyed, Jane was hastily driven to hospital in Bukavu, at more than 350 miles far from Shabunda, on July 20, 2005. She had 9 surgeries as consequences of the atrocities she survived. She was half-dead before she came to hospital. Jane’s stay in the hospital made her have a vision and plan in order turn the page of her old life and start life afresh. She saw that she should invest in becoming a leader so as to help other women with who she shares the same experience to raise their voices, know their rights and duties, heal emotionally, and feel free. All these ideas were kept and discerned by her and were only revealed when she saw V (formerly Eve Ensler) who paid her and other women a visit for the first time in hospital in May 2007. The sharing Jane had with V made her believe that her dreams had come true.
As the sharing was rather promising in relation to Jane’s vision and plan, Jane did not think about any other thing apart from giving her proposal of building City of Joy that would serve as a shelter of women to be empowered and to acquire different knowledge that will allow them to become good leaders and true community change-makers.
When V fulfilled her promise with the construction of City of Joy, Jane was one of the first class of women to be empowered because she met all the selection criteria. Throughout her training at City of Joy, Jane really proved that change is possible even after a long period of uncertainty, challenge, isolation, aloofness, rejection, hopelessness and anger.
As an illiterate woman, Jane was able to read and write in the course of a six-month-training, she was able to write a letter to her pen friends, she is able to count money. Beyond that, she is able to launch self-help projects. She always says the ability she acquired at City of Joy allowed her to buy a plot of land and build a small house. She always declares that she changed into a new creature. She was Jane before she came to City of Joy and turned into Jane after her stay at City of Joy. She is proud to be called Jane because she has changed, she has shifted from old age to new age, and she has come back to life. She has really turned from Pain to Power.
After her stay at City of Joy in January 2012, Jane was taken to the staff of City of Joy. She helps other women to heal. She serves as a model example of women who have turned their Pain to Power and who are committed to teaching other women to know and demand their rights and duties, raise their voices, and fuel a revolution to end all forms of violence against women. She helps them sustain hope and never be discouraged.
She is a City of Joy second class graduate. She survived harsh atrocities. She had a child out of rape. She was helped by the ingredients of the training at City of Joy to succeed to accept herself and her child. When she joined her village she wished to invest in two things: (1) to be involved in her community and help her relatives, and (2) to work and feel self-reliant. In order to help other people in her community, Chantal got trained in homeopathy for six months. After the training, she was treating and healing women, men, and children using natural medicine. People who undervalued her before because of what she had gone through, appreciated her and came to her for treatment. She felt happy to belong entirely to her community. She is happy to find the disparity between what she was before her stay at City of Joy and the benefits that her new life offers.
In terms of Chantal’s abilities and economic empowerment, she got a six-month scholarship last year which was granted by barefoot college in India. She was trained in solar electrification. Now she is a worker in the V-World Farm. As a reminder, the V-World Farm is a VDAY project. It is a sustainable farm based on 338 hectares of arable land located near the village of Nyangezi, about 30 km South of Bukavu, approximately 20 km South of the City of Joy. It is a lush expanse of land with carrot, cassava, corn, tomato, soya, and bean crops. The grounds include Tilapia ponds and many pigs.