Letters From Lubumbashi
Following are two letters from Irene Martine, Director of the Centre for Girls and Women, Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo.
The first letter describes her successful V-Day event. The second letter describes the outcome of her court case.
Letter 1: Incredible But True
We are really very happy to let you know that Saturday 6 April 2002 was a remarkable day because of the success of the performance of "The Vagina Monologues" in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo.
For the first time in the history of Congolese women, this day was the happiest day in our lives.
Despite some intimidation from the local authorities, wind, storms and torrential rain, police insistence that we cancel the performance, we finally made our dream come true. Yes, a dream became a reality.
Who among the girls and women of Lubumbashi could believe that one day "The Vagina Monologues" could be shown in Lubumbashi by women, themselves speaking of their body parts? It was taboo.
Assisted by a church choir, the hall, which normally holds 150 people, on the 6th April 2002 was filled with 432 people, young girls and boys, men and women who had come from various townships in Lubumbashi. Others were not fortunate enough to gain entry to the hall because of the lack of space. Outside there were 210 people, not counting those who, unable to find a place in the hall had left, with great regret, unable to attend this important performance.
This morning, as I write this report, I have just received, from the Mayor's Office a summons to appear there on Wednesday 10 April at 9:30 am (local time). I will keep you informed of the results of this summons.
Throngs of people came to see the performance, firstly because it is the first time a demonstration of this nature has been organized in Congo/Zaire and particularly in Lubumbashi and also because entry was free. As the Government objected to the organization of this demonstration and also as it is the first time that such an important demonstration has taken place, we decided that entry must be free for everyone.
We experienced a unique event for the first time and we are confident "The Vagina Monologues" 2003 will be even better than this year's event and that the "Centre for Hope for Girls and Women" will make the difference.
For further comment please see the videotape which will be forwarded to you shortly.
Centre for Girls and Women
Democratic Republic of Congo
Letter 2: Victory Letter
In the name of my organization and in my personnal name I must to thanks all of you for your support and commitment on my case which started 06 April, 2002 and now has ended. Because of your support, I believe many things will change on behalf of girls and women whom will discover their rights and liberty. Their freedom will be a fruit of your support.
When we arrived at court, we found a mob of people who came to hear the final sentence. The mob was estimated to be more than 3000 girls, women and men as well. But the majority were the girls. One of the girls said, "We are here not to hear the sentence but we are here to learn our rights and freedom as long as we are concerned, and we must take this opportunity to to show that we support our fellow girls and women since they are supported abroad."
The mayor had suprised even his lawyer when the magistrate asked him if he had any comment on all that happened since 09 April. The answer from the mayor was: "I am not only asking to apologize to Madam Irene, her team and to the court, but my excuse goes to all Congolese women and to all women on this Earth."
For arbitrary arrest he must to pay the penalty to the court equivalent to $617 within 15 days and must pay me before the court the amount of $213. Without this he must to be jailed for six months.
After that, my lawyer expressed his anxiousness to see "The Vagina Monolgues" held in Lubumbashi the next year. After consultation, the court agreed but said that two weeks before the performance, [we must] inform the judicial authorities and if possible invite one of them to "The Vagina Monologues" practice and then be given an authorization letter. After that, "The Vagina Monologues" can be performed without any other authorization. The letter will say that the court has agreed to the authorization of "The Vagina Monologues" not only in Lubumbashi but in The Democratic Republic of Congo as a whole.
Dear friends, this success we must to give to V-Day, Equality Now, The Urgent Action Fund and other anonymous individuals and organizations who supported us, technically, morally and financially.
We are winners and we must succeed from success to success.
Irene Ndaya Martine Nabote.