V-Day Celebrates the Opening of City of Joy
On Friday, February 4th, the opening of the City of Joy brought thousands of Congolese women and men, local women's groups and grassroots activists, regional dignitaries including South Kivu Governor Marcellin Cishambo Ruhoya, V-Day Congo Director/Director of City of Joy Christine Schuler Deschryver, Panzi Hospital's Dr. Denis Mukwege, City of Joy construction crew members, and residents and staff of City of Joy together with national and international activists, politicians and supporters, including V-Day Founder Eve Ensler, UN Messenger of Peace and V-Day supporter Charlize Theron, U.S. Ambassador on Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer, U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, UN Special Envoy Margot Wallström, UNICEF DRC Representative a.i. Philippe Heffinck, V-Day Board Members Rosario Dawson, Carole Black, Pat Mitchell, Emily Scott Pottruck, Amy Rao, and Susan Celia Swan (V-Day's Managing Director), V-Day Supporters Dylan McDermott, Naomi Klein, and Thandie Newton, Congolese Ambassador to the U.S. Faida Mitifu, AIDS Free World Co-Founder Stephen Lewis, and V-Day staff including Managing Director - Campaigns & Development Cecile Lipworth, Programs & Development Director Purva Panday Cullman, Europe Director Karin Heisecke, and Director of Operations Anthony Montentieri. During the ceremony, Christine Schuler Deschryver was presented with the inaugural "Turning Pain To Power" award.
This incredible and diverse celebration marks the next chapter in V-Day's ongoing global campaign, STOP RAPING OUR GREATEST RESOURCE: Power to the Women and Girls of the DRC, and commences the creation of a sustainable path towards the health and empowerment of Congolese women, providing a powerful new platform to turn their pain to power, and become leaders who will steer Eastern Congo's destiny towards peace.
Starting with the first group, City of Joy will provide up to 180 Congolese women a year with an opportunity to benefit from group therapy; self-defense training; comprehensive sexuality education (covering HIV/AIDS, family planning); economic empowerment; storytelling; dance; theater; ecology and horticulture. Created from their vision, Congolese women will run, operate, and direct City of Joy themselves.
For the last three years, you, our V-Day activists around the world, have taken this issue of violence against women and girls in DRC to your friends, family, neighbors, and communities, raising international awareness and over one million dollars for the STOP RAPING OUR GREATEST RESOURCE campaign and the City of Joy. Through the Congo Spotlight Campaign alone, V-Day organizers around the world came together to raise over $500,000 for City of Joy, with thousands more women, men, girls, and boys showing support by joining V-Day's V-Wall for Congo and letting the women and girls of DRC know that they are not forgotten. It is through your donations, your time, your energy, and your commitment to end the violence that has lead us to this momentous occasion, and so we share this great Vagina Victory with you!
Photojournalist Paula Allen, who has been documenting V-Day's Congo work for three years, joined us in Bukavu. VIEW a selection of images from the opening.
Please keep checking vday.org over the next few weeks as we post more about this opening celebration, including more photos and video shot over the opening weekend.
Thank you all from all of us at V-Day!