France's "First Lady" Visits City of Joy
Valerie Trierweiler, the French President's Companion, visits City of Joy
On Monday, June 8, 2013, Valerie Trierweiler, the French President's Companion, visited the City of Joy in Bukavu, DRC, along with Yamina Benguigui, French Secretary of Foreign Affairs in Charge of French Speaking Countries, to both honor Dr. Denis Mukwege for his commitment to treating rape survivors of the conflicts in the DRC, and to share a meal with with City of Joy residents.
She wished to do so in order to celebrate her womanhood with them and express her love and compassion.
Caption: Yamina Benguigui, Christine Schuler Deschryver, Valerie Trierweiler at City of Joy, Bukavu. Credit: City of Joy.
Like all guests at the City of Joy, Mses. Trierweiler and Benguigui were not allowed to use their cameras. ”By virtue of the respect of women’s dignity and rights, when guests come to City of Joy they should not behave as though they were in a zoo,” said the Director of City of Joy, Christine Schuler Deschryver. “City of Joy is a shelter and a sane environment for women to be free.”
“Women come exhausted, they are put in an engine of transformation for six months, and they go back to their communities after their lives have become new,” added City of Joy Program Manager, Mama Bachu. In addition to therapy gatherings, which is the basis of all the activities, “women also receive trainings for their empowerment so that they can become economically independent and know their rights so as to effectively lead their communities to peace.”
Jane (who was Jeanne before her emotional healing at City of Joy) was also given the floor to speak about the genesis of City of Joy, to show how she became a new creature, how she is helping other women to make strides forward, and to sustain hope in the process of connecting with what was separated. Jane concluded her short speech with the following lines: “we have been treated by Doctors and I have personally had more surgeries, but we still need peace and freedom, we are tired to be assaulted and subjected to inhuman acts.”
Caption: Yasmin Benguigui dances with residents at City of Joy. Credit: City of Joy.
After the meal, Ms. Trierweiler spoke. She spoke of how happy and impressed she is by the work being done at City of Joy to make the impossible become possible. She added that she has been an eyewitness to the reality on the ground and promised to keep in touch with the Director of City of Joy.
In signing the guests’ book, Ms. Trierweiler. wrote the following lines (which have been translated into English by V-Day):
"In spite of sufferings, in spite of acts of barbarity, City of Joy gives back hope and gaiety. Congrats to the whole team and thanks for your welcome.”
Ms. Benguigui wrote:
“Thanks for your confidence. This place is a place of freedom. It opens the voice. I think about this statement of Mandela which I dedicate to City of Joy today:
“What people do for us without us, they do it against us.”
About City of Joy: Conceived, created and developed by the women on the ground, the City of Joy in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo supports women survivors of sexual violence to heal and provides them with opportunities to develop their leadership through innovative programming.City of Joy provides up to 180 women a year with an opportunity to benefit from: group therapy; storytelling; dance; theater; self-defense; comprehensive sexuality education (covering HIV/AIDS, family planning); ecology and horticulture; and economic empowerment.