City of Joy: A Place for Healing


Sewing Class at COJ, Feb 2013 Bukavu, DRC
Photo by Paula Allen for V-Day via City of Joy

Spotlight looks at a place where victims of sexual violence can go for education, hope, and healing in the DRC.

Watch Video


Transcript


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Colin Lowther.

Voice 2  

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1  

Today is graduation day. It is a day of celebration for people who have completed their classes. Women in bright, colorful dresses smile and talk with each other. There is dancing and laughing. Everyone is filled with joy.

Voice 2  

But these women were not always filled with joy. Every woman who is graduating here was the victim of sexual violence. Yet they all now have hope after spending time at City of Joy. Today’s Spotlight is on City of Joy.

Voice 1  

This program talks about the terrible subject of sexual violence and rape - especially as a weapon of war. It is difficult to talk about. But the work and stories from the City of Joy are important. They show how people can work together to bring healing and joy from this pain.

Voice 2  

In times of war, soldiers often attack women and rape them, forcing them to have sex. Rape is used as a tool to create fear and gain power. This is the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or the DRC. There has been war here for 20 years. In fact, many people call this place the “rape capital of the world.”

Voice 1  

Rape has terrible effects on a person’s body and mind. Rape can permanently damage a person’s reproductive and sexual organs. The victim may be beaten and injured. Rape also harms a person’s mind. A person who is raped often feels shame, fear, and anger. Many times, the victim may even want to die after the rape. Sometimes a victim’s own family rejects the victim. But there can be hope for people who survive rape. One place where they can find hope and healing is at City of Joy.

Voice 2  

City of Joy is in Bukavu, one of the largest cities in eastern DRC. Every six months, 60 women who have been victims of sexual violence come to City of Joy. Here, the women can talk about the violence. They receive help dealing with the terrible things that happened to them. And they also learn different skills, like how to read, cook, farm, defend themselves, or how to use a computer.

Voice 1  

City of Joy is not a traditional city. It is a group of buildings. There are homes for the women. There are classrooms, and a large room where the women eat together. The land is green and beautiful. They are proud of their space, and they all work together to care for the land and keep it beautiful.

Voice 2  

The idea for City of Joy started with two people. Denis Mukwege is a women’s health doctor in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He told his friend Christine Schuler-Deschryver about the terrible injuries he was seeing in women because of rape. Schuler-Deschryver is a human rights worker. They began to work with organizations like UNICEF, V-Day and the Panzi Foundation. They also made sure that Congolese women were the leaders of the project.

Voice 1

Before the city was built, organizers talked to many Congolese women who had been victims of sexual violence. They wanted to know how to best help these women. During a long planning process, the desires of the women were very clear. City of Joy’s Program Manager described the women’s desires to UNICEF:

Voice 3  

“All the women we talked to during the planning of this place asked for the same things. They did not want money. They did not request jobs. They wanted a home where they would be safe from violence until their body and mind were healed.”

Voice 2  

The Congolese women began building City of Joy in August 2009. Most of the women were victims of sexual violence. Many of them were poor and injured. But the women themselves helped build the physical buildings. When City of Joy opened in June 2011, there was a joyful celebration. Hundreds of women celebrated with drumming and singing. Many danced with the tools they had used to help build City of Joy.

Voice 1  

Today, healing and learning are important parts of City of Joy. Many of the women who come to City of Joy are angry. They have had horrible things happen to them. It is difficult for them to trust people and work with others. It is also very hard for them to talk about their past. Many of the women have been hurt so badly that they can barely walk. Schuler Deschryver is the founder and Director of City of Joy. She says that no one should give up on these women. She told The Guardian:

Voice 4  

“There is something you need to know about Congolese women. When we cannot walk, we run.”

Voice 2  

City of Joy knows that helping these women requires something very important - love. Schuler Deschryver explained the importance of love in a video on the City of Joy website.

Voice 4  

“City of Joy is a community, a place where love lives.  Everything is based on love. I think that is the only way you can change the world.”

Voice 1  

City of Joy uses love to help replace anger with purpose and helpfulness. On the City of Joy website, one of the managers explains how the women’s lives change after their six months of classes:

Voice 5  

“When women first come, they cannot see you.  They cannot talk to you. They are ashamed. They are fearful. But after six months at City of Joy, they can stand, talk without fear and without shame. They believe they have worth.”

Voice 2  

In December 2016, City of Joy celebrated its tenth graduating class. Ninety women from 46 villages completed their classes. These women all returned to their communities to help bring change and healing to others. They joined the over 700 other women who have also graduated from City of Joy.

Voice 1  

Eve Ensler is a writer and activist for women’s rights. She started the organization V-Day to help end violence against women. V-Day and Ensler have worked with City of Joy since it first started. She praises the courage and strength of the women she saw at the most recent graduation. She told The Mercury News:

Voice 6  

“They were strong and beautiful and powerful. And they were sure of themselves. When I see that, I think, ‘Well, anything is possible.’ If they have resources and support, these women will turn the country around.”

Voice 2  

The writer of this program was Lauren Anders Visser. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, “City of Joy: A Place for Healing”.

Voice 1  

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

(Get our app for Android or for iOs. Let us know how you like it and write a review!)

Question:

Is sexual violence a problem where you live?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
Honneur
said on September 20, 2018

Yes. Brazil has a great tax of sexual violence and this is one of our major social concern. I think rape is a heinous crime and must be punished with the capital punishment. The rapist is like a predator animal which don’t deserves to live.