VOICES FROM THE FIELDTHE IRC BLOG
Congolese Women Respond: "These messages comfort us"
June 24, 2009 by tim.lash
|Women in Democratic Republic of Congo Photo: Sarah Mosley/The IRC|
Last year we launched a very special online campaign, asking people to send personal messages to survivors of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We wanted to show support for women and girls in Congo by sharing with them messages of solidarity and encouragement from around the world. We planned to deliver these messages to Congolese women through a network of community-based organizations that we support in the Congo.
The response from IRC supporters was overwhelming. Hundreds of people sent heartfelt messages about the effects of sexual violence, describing their own experiences and encouraging Congolese women and girls as they face extreme stigma and rejection from their families and communities. (If you want to see a sample of these messages, check out this blog post from last year titled “We Are Listening.”)
Since then, IRC staff members have met with survivors of sexual violence representing three different Congolese women’s associations that we support. We recorded their replies and translated them to share with you. Now we want to share some of these stirring messages from the women and girls who received personal messages from around the world.
“These messages comfort us and encourage us in our work. It is very encouraging to know that what we are doing, which often feels so small and insignificant, is important in the eyes of the rest of the world.” - Mamans pour l’Education et Development
“It was surprising to hear that in America, where you have good laws that people respect, that you also have sexual violence but this made us realize we are not alone. We want to thank you for having the courage to share your thoughts with us.” - Kalamo
“I wanted to say first ‘pole sana’ (sorry) to the people who wrote who have also experienced sexual violence. We thought we were the only ones having this here in the DRC. Reading these messages helps me know that we are valued. I am very happy to read your words because they make me feel like I am loved by very important people.” - Collectif des Femmes de Kamanyiola
“I am 21 yrs old and a member of this association. Armed men came into my house and killed my father. Three of them then raped me and my mother. It has cost our family a lot. This association has helped us a lot, and little by little, with their help, we are making sense of our sadness. But let me tell you, for me, rape has been the hardest and most complex problem I’ve ever faced in my life. Thank you so very much for taking the time to think about us and write us. It gives me courage but also makes me proud to think that there are people in the world who think about us and are willing to do something on our behalf.” - Collectif des Femmes de Kamanyiola
If you want to help survivors of sexual violence in Congo and around the world, there are many things you can do. Here are three suggestions: