By Paul Ndiho
February 10, 2011
Sexual violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has left thousands of victims in need of greater assistance. The United Nations is trying to reach out to women who bear the brunt of war. The U.N. recently opened new community center for women survivors of gender violence in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Rape has been used as a weapon of war in the Eastern Congo for more than a decade. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of women have been raped by war-hardened rebels and government soldiers. The U.N.-funded “City of Joy” is Congo’s first rehabilitation center for victims of sexual violence. The center opened its doors just weeks after a new spate of mass rapes in eastern Congo. Wabiwa-Mutulinwa is a spokesperson for sexual violence victims.
“We had said before and we are still saying that we need a committee to look after our needs, how are we expected to live? We are oppressed, when we are raped, everyone laughs at us saying we are mothers and asking if we are really using our heads properly.”
City of Joy will provide hundreds of women each year with survival skills training, therapy, storytelling and comprehensive sexuality education.
On the center’s opening day, United States Ambassador on global women’s issues, Melanne Verveer, told participants that they need to work together for Eastern Congo.
“We work in many levels with our partners here, with all of you to end the conflict to end the atrocities of systematic rapes that is nothing less than a crime against humanity.”
The City of Joy center will try to help Congolese women turn their pain and anger to hope, and become leaders in Eastern Congo.
But Wabiwa-Mutulinwa says Congo’s women need help to stop the violence.
“We really suffer too much with the problem of rape, and we are requesting all of you who are here to help us as if this was to happen to your country it would be stopped very fast, we ask ourselves what mistake have we done?”
Last month more than 100 women, men and children were sexually abused in separate attacks carried out by the Congolese army and FDLR rebels in and around the South Kivu town of Fizi. U.N. Special Envoy on Sexual Violence, Margot Wallstorm.
“Women are so strong. Women carry children, they carry water, they carry produce, they carry firewood, they carry responsibilities and now they have to carry the shame of being raped. This has to stop.”
The DRC has one of the highest incidences of sexual abuse. There were an estimated 11,000 rapes in Congo in 2010 alone, according to the United Nations.