My bags are packed. In a few hours, I’ll be on my way to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo — dubbed as the rape capital of the world by a U.N. Special Representative. In the DRC today, 48 occurrences of rape take place every hour. “The message is important and clear: Rape in [Congo] has metastasized amid a climate of impunity, and has emerged as one of the great human crises of our time”, said Michael VanRooyen, director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.
I’ve written about the Congo several times here; once was when I first heard V-Day’s always-fabulous Eve Ensler speak about City of Joy. City of Joy, run by Christine Schuler Deschryver, is a special place, currently in its pilot year, where women survivors of sexual violence come to heal, rebuild and turn pain to power. In a few days, I will bear witness to this amazing reality that was once a dream. I, along with eight other San Francisco Bay Area women, will be celebrating sisterhood and graduation day with these incredible Congolese women.
I am also excited to meet a legendary woman named Masika Katsuva, a mother figure to more than 6000 women and children she has nursed back to life. Masika’s story of survival is quite brutal, but if you’re interested in reading about it, you can find it below.
I am very much looking forward to being in the presence of these Congolese women; to hear their voices and their songs, to see their faces and their smiles, to feel their spirit, warmth and rhythm. In addition, V-Day and Human Rights Watch have packed our days with what I’m sure will be memorable and life-changing experiences. My hope is that I will be able to be fully present for and effectively process these experiences so that I can share some of them in writing here when I return.
Wish me luck!
Additional materials if you’re interested:
A moving film that focuses on Masika’s work called Field of Hope
Masika’s story (Note: graphic details included. Best to skip if you have a weak stomach.)