Congo Update: City of Joy and the Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource Campaign
Construction at the City of Joy: Construction work on the City of Joy continues in Bukavu, with each day bringing progress. Almost all of the ten houses, the administration building, dining room, and class rooms now have a roof and the construction crew have begun laying the floors, putting in the ceilings, as well as the installation for electricity and water. The security wall around City of Joy is almost finished. V-Day’s Congo Director/Director of City of Joy Christine Schuler Deschryver has begun working with local carpenters to start the building of furniture - all of the beds, chairs, etc. will be made by local craftsmen. All of this has taken place amidst an incredibly heavy rainy season and a series of delays with the construction crew and material shortages due to the regional conflict taking place in Eastern Congo. Our Congo team has been 'moving mountains' each and every day to actualize our dream, and the City of Joy will soon be a reality!
Opening Ceremony: We originally planned to hold the opening ceremony and host our first delegation on May 25th, but after close consultation with Christine and the women on the ground we have decided to reschedule the opening so our team can focus, in these next crucial months, on finishing of the building, hiring staff, developing the programs, and identifying the first group of women who will begin the program in fall 2010, pending any further delays with construction. We feel this will give the women at City of Joy time to get settled and offer our first delegation the complete City of Joy experience in winter 2011 - when they can bear witness to the transformation we envision at City of Joy and celebrate the strength of the women who we are turning pain to power. Updates to follow!
The Campaign - Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource Campaign: Power to the Women and Girls of the DRC: The campaign continues worldwide and throughout the Congo. Globally, between February and April, over 1,840 colleges and communities held over 5,500 V-Day events where the Congo was the Spotlight - activists performed a special monologue written by Eve about violence against women in the Congo and a background on the history of the Congo and V-Day's campaign was printed in programs and in the local press and media. In addition, many of these locations held Congo teach-ins to educate their communities about the issue and hosted house parties showing our short film "Turning Pain to Power."
Among the many local campaign activities taking place in the DRC, Christine and her team hosted performances of The Vagina Monologues in Goma, the capitol of North Kivu, with much success, as the performances of the play opened up crucial dialogue around ending violence against women. The March 31st performance in Goma, was for the government and non-government officials with more than 250 people in attendance. The next day, the performance was for students, with over 350 in attendance, mostly men!
On May 4th and 5th, Christine and the V-Day Congo team brought their production of The Vagina Monologues to Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu, for government officials, including the Vice Governor, as well as students. Attendance was over 200 at each performance and inspired Christine to officially call Bukavu a "V-Town."
Involving the Faith-Based Community in Congo: In mid-April, Christine hosted a day with local religious leaders and traditional chiefs and spoke with them about the City of Joy, as well the need and philosophy behind the project. Since then, Christine has been invited to speak at many local churches and the dialogue with the faith-based community in the Congo continues.
United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Visits City of Joy Site: Also in April, the newly appointed United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallstrom visited the City of Joy site and was given a tour by Christine. She expressed her support for the program and the larger Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource campaign. Wallstrom's visit followed a meeting in New York where she met with Eve Ensler, who has subsequently joined her advisory committee.
Mayo Clinic Doctors to Panzi Hospital: A team of doctors from the renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN will travel to Bukavu later this year to work with Dr. Denis Mukwege at the Panzi Hospital and his team. Five doctors and two nurses from Mayo will offer their services for one week. They have already shipped a donation of much needed medical equipment to the hospital - see the picture of Dr. Mukwege receiving the shipment.
Amidst these great developments and our ongoing optimism, the Democratic Republic of Congo is still at war and women's bodies continue to be caught in the crossfire. Rape is rampant and brutal; fighting between rebels groups, the army and civilians is recurrent and deadly. As the country’s vast amounts of natural resources are plundered and the infrastructure of the country is destabilized, the state of the national economy remains dire.
It is therefore vital to keep our work going, to continue to raise awareness and funds, and to show our support for the women and girls of the DRC. While we celebrate our victories, we recognize that our work is not finished. We need your continued support and activism to help women and men on the ground bring and peace to the region.
Together we can change the story of women in the DRC!
For more information on V-Day’s support of the women in Congo, visit vday.org/drc and please be sure to visit our online gift registry to provide your support to the City of Joy!
The V-Day Team