Eve Update from Bukavu
I write to you from Bukavu, DRC. I am here for most of the month of
December. I write to each of you who have so generously supported our
campaign and the City of Joy with the hope of giving you a feel of what it
is like being here. Because it is such a profound world of constant
opposites and intensity, I am writing to you in a more fragmented style, one
that I hope captures the huge bursts of joy in moving forward one feels at
the very same time as experiencing the shock of a new horror. I think this
is essentially the way of the world at this time, but it is amplified and
undeniable here. Perhaps it is why I love it here. Smack in the center of
light and darkness. It is oddly the truest place.
We arrive at the site of City of Joy. I am breathless as I look about and
see the hugeness of this pastoral city, the beauty and greenness of the land
(it is rainy season) the very well constructed houses for the women, the
huge dining room and school building and administrative building. The
expansive fields where women will be planting and growing, the goats, the
light, the ever growing sky. Then we are greeted by women builders. They are
dancing and singing with their buckets of cement and dirt on their heads.
Dancing beside men. A third of the construction crew is women - this may be
the first time this has ever happened in the Congo and the women are so
empowered. The men all say it is the best job they have had working with
women because they are strong and such great workers. The site is one of
joy. You know change will happen here. You can smell the revolution, you can
feel women coming into their voices, their bodies, their power.
Human Rights Watch reports today that 7500 women have been raped since
January. Kimia 2, a recent joint military operation, is the disaster we
expected it to be and wrote that it would be and told the Secretary General
it would be. Not one person at the UN is being held accountable for the
displaced, the murdered, the ravaged. Not one country that is pillaging the
minerals of the DRC which perpetuates this war is being held accountable.
We visit the local group I Will Not Kill Myself Today. Twenty of them live
in the tiniest, most impossible shack. 10 women sleep on the floor in one
very small room. The spirit of the women is so strong in spite of having no
money, their traumatized and seriously wounded bodies, the insane landlord
who piles up cement and dirt in their main room in an attempt to get them to
leave. The leader, a candidate for City of Joy, named the group. The
militias killed her six children and husband. They raped her and her seventh
child, her daughter. Her daughter got pregnant. They had nowhere to live.
She was on the verge of giving up and killing herself when she met our
Christine. Christine brought her back to life, nurtured her (she was very
skinny, and now is healthy), gave her clothes and a vision. Now she is the
head of this group and leading and fighting for the other women. Now, that
daughter of rape is a gorgeous, bold, clever girl.
Everyone is waiting for the money Secretary Clinton promised ($17 million).
Everyone is waiting for President Obama to do something substantial about
the femicide. Everyone is waiting for another solution other than violence,
a political solution that puts pressure on Rwanda and Burundi and Uganda.
Everyone is waiting for the world to stop pillaging the minerals of the
Congo. Everyone is waiting for president Kabila to stand up for the women of
his country. Everyone is waiting for justice and accountability.
Everywhere children, women, men are desperate for shoes.
We visit our Green Mamas, women survivors who we have supported. Their
fields have grown. They are vast and green and there are beans and cabbage
and corn and now they have goats. We bought them 20 more for Christmas.
Green is "verte" in French and they are V-Mamas for sure.
I interviewed a woman leader today. I asked her what should happen. She
tells me many ways to end the war. She says, "We, the women of Congo, are
all going to shut up now. We have told our story. Everyone knows. We are not
going to keep telling it. We don't need to hire anymore ex-pats to do
expensive research. We all know the story. Now, we need action. We need
Children are so skinny and yet they have more energy and happiness than any
children I have ever met.
At Panzi Hospital there are hundreds of new women survivors. There are so
many young girls. They don¹t smile, they hardly lift their heads. They don¹t
like to be touched.
Going mad - you tell the story of horror and atrocity one too many times and
then you realize nothing is happening and that must mean that no one really
cares or not enough people care enough to stop their lives to change things
and then you realize that the world goes on getting its minerals, supporting
its luxuries and the death, massacres rapes and tortures of millions doesn¹t
matter. And then you can't find a real reason for wanting to live in
humanity or be part of this world but you don't want to kill yourself so
your start strategizing, screaming out, denouncing and then you get called
mad. Because that is what people who have crossed over get called. At what
point are we each going to cross over?
When I am with the Green Mamas in the fields, the women workers at City of
Joy, with the children madly running in the fields outside their tented and
muddy school, with the fierce women who are working day and night to change
this madness, I know we can turn pain to power. I know I know I know.