WOMAN of ACTION, Eve Ensler is Taking Action for Women of the Congo !

EVE ENSLER Takes Action for the Women of the Congo !

 



DOSHU, Congo — Zamuda Sikujuwa shuffles to a bench in the sunshine, pushes apart her thighs with a grimace of pain and pumps her fist up and down in a lewd-looking gesture to show how the militiamen shoved an automatic rifle inside her.

The brutish act tore apart her insides after seven of the men had taken turns raping her. She lost consciousness and wishes now that her life also had ended on that day.

The rebels from the Tutsi tribe had come demanding U.S. dollars. But when her husband could not even produce local currency, they put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. When her two children started crying, the rebels killed them too. Then they attacked Sikujuwa and left her for dead.

The 53-year-old still has difficulty walking after two operations. Yet she wants to tell the world her story, even though repeating it brings back the nightmares.

 

 

PHOTO: Alissa Everett


“It’s hard, hard, hard,” she says. “I’m alone in this world. My body is partly mended but I don’t know if my heart will ever heal. … I want this violence to stop. I don’t want other women to have to suffer what I am suffering.”

 


Rapehas been used as a brutal weapon of war in Congo, where conflicts based on tribal lines have spawned dozens of armed groups amid back-to-back civil wars that drew in several African nations. More than 5 million people have died since 1994. Women have become even more vulnerable since a rebel advance at the end of last year drove a quarter-million people from their homes and fighting this year left another 100,000 others homeless, according to aid workers.Now some of the women are fighting back the only way they know how — by talking about what happened.



Breaking taboos


A campaign spearheaded by the U.N. Children’s Fundis working with local groups to break traditional taboos around talking about the violence. They’re using radio stations broadcasting in local languages, and more activists are getting to remote areas.”Many more victims are coming forward. We receive a lot of SMS text messages and cell phone calls from women who have been raped and need help,” says campaign leader Esther Ntoto.Five months ago, U.N. officials began bringing together women to tell their stories to rooms full of local officials, community leaders, even children.


One sign of success is that more men than women have volunteered for training to encourage victims to come forward and their communities to confront the issues.Video footage of the campaign Women Breaking the Silence shows officials startled by the atrocities recounted. A provincial minister interrupted to ask reporters not to film a woman’s face. But she took the microphone to declare: “I am not ashamed to show my face and publish my identity. The shame lies with those who broke me open and with the authorities who failed to protect me.”

 

“If you don’t hear me, see me, you will not understand why it is so important that we fight this together.”


That woman, Honorata Kizende, described how her life as a school teacher and the mother of seven children ended when she was kidnapped in 2001. She was held as a sex slave for 18 months and passed around from one Hutu fighter to another until she escaped. She is now a counselor and trains others to help survivors of sexual violence.

One of the difficulties is the “huge problem of impunity,” said Mireille Kahatwa Amani, a lawyer working at an office at HEAL Africa Hospital opened a year ago by the Chicago-based American Bar Association.

“It’s difficult to prosecute perpetrators because they can buy off the police or a judge.

There’s no guarantee of justice,” she says.

 


The Fistula Foundation


Still, with funding from the U.S. State Department, lawyers have interviewed more than 250 victims and pursued more than 100 cases. In 11 months, they have received 30 judgments with only two acquittals. Those found guilty have been punished with sentences of five to 20 years in jail, Kahatwa says.Her big success this year was against a man who has been condemned to 20 years in jail for raping a 6-year-old neighbor and infecting her with the AIDS virus. Kahatwa says the judgment came just a month after the complaint was filed, a record.Surgery helps some wounds Kasongo Manyema takes small, careful steps, fearful of unwrapping the cloth tied like a baby’s diaper to catch the blood, urine and feces that has been dribbling from her body for 2 1/2 years.

She was 19 then, when men in military uniform attacked her as she weeded her family’s cassava field.A U.N. helicopter has brought her to HEAL Africa Hospital in Goma, where reconstructive surgery could help her incontinence and the stench that follows her and thousands of other Congolese women suffering from fistulas.Fistulas usually result from giving birth in poor conditions. In Congo, they are caused by violent rapes that tear apart the flesh separating the bladder and rectum from the vagina.

Dr. Christophe Kinoma, one of only two surgeons who perform the reconstructive operations in east Congo, says there’s a 50-50 chance that surgery can mend Manyema and others like her.

 

“Yesterday I did five fistula operations and we have more than 100 women waiting here and who knows how many out in the bush who never ever get to a hospital.”

Kinoma says it has become the norm for armed men to use guns, knives and bayonets to rupture their victims’ bodies. Sometimes they shoot bullets up women’s vaginas. Victims often are rejected by their families, contract HIV, and are left to live in pain and shame.

In December, he operated on an 11-month-old baby raped by a 22-year-old neighbor. During one week in February, it was a 12-year-old girl who had been savagely raped by five soldiers. They stuffed a maize cob inside her.

 

WOMAN of ACTIONEve Ensler:

‘Women will rise up and take back the Congo for the Congolese’ – video online only. (https://acelebrationofwomen.org/?p=57418)

 



Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, talks about her work with the City of Joy refuge in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The women’s rights campaigner discusses what drives the global feminism movement, and why more men should have gender equality at the forefront of their minds.



 

A Celebration of Women is here to Celebrate the Lives of our WOMEN of ACTION working in the trenches of the Congo,for education, freedom of ignorance, nurture mental health for all our people of the Congo; both our sisters and our brothers.

 

RAPE is an Act of Violence, and not a sexual act.

The Violence must STOP !!!

 


 

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