|© V-Day/Paula Allen|
Stop Raping our Greatest Resource: Power to Women and Girls of Democratic Republic of Congo was initiated by the women of eastern DRC, V-Day and UNICEF on behalf of UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict. The campaign calls for an end to the violence and to impunity for those who commit these atrocities.
“Before I went to the Congo, I’d spent the past 10 years working on V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls. I’d traveled to the rape mines of the world--places like Bosnia, Afghanistan and Haiti, where rape has been used as a tool of war. But nothing I ever experienced felt as ghastly, terrifying and complete as the sexual torture and attempted destruction of the female species here. The violence is a threat to all; young girls and village elders alike are at risk. It is not too strong to call this a femicide, to say that the future of the Congo’s women is in serious jeopardy.” ~ Eve Ensler, Founder and Artistic Director, V-Day
“When you have spoken to these women and girls, and listened to their stories, you clearly understand just how devastating their circumstances are. They are exposed to grave danger simply by gathering wood or fetching water and live in constant fear in their own homes. They must be allowed to live in a secure environment.” ~ Ann Veneman, Executive Director, UNICEF
Since 1996, sexual violence against women and children in the eastern region of DRC has been used to torture and humiliate women and girls and destroy families. UNICEF estimates that hundreds of thousands of women and girls have been raped since the conflict began in DRC. In addition to the severe psychological impact, sexual violence leaves many survivors with genital lesions, traumatic fistulae and other physical wounds, as well as unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
Local support for survivors is hindered by a lack of resources. There is near total impunity for these crimes as perpetrators almost always go free.
The global campaign began on 7 August 2007, with the article “Women left for dead – and the man who’s saving them” by Ms. Eve Ensler, Founder and Artistic Director, V-Day. The article was published in the September 2007 issue of Glamour Magazine.
The campaign was launched in DRC by the First Lady Mme. Olive Kabila in Bukavu on 24 November 2007 and coincided with the annual 16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women.
What the campaign will do
V-Day and UNICEF, together with UN and NGO partners, are working to end sexual violence in DRC by empowering women to claim their rights, and with the active participation of men, to bring social pressure at community, provincial and national levels to stop rape and end impunity.
The campaign will establish and strengthen women’s groups to provide women the space to talk about sexual violence, gender inequalities and identify advocacy priorities, as well as support the reintegration of survivors back into their communities.
A major initiative in DRC, the City of Joy, is directly supporting women and girls by providing a refuge for survivors of rape who cannot return to their families and communities. Partnering with PANZI Hospital, City of Joy will offer a safe haven, providing health, educational and income-generating opportunities. The City of Joy will help transform pain to power and help women become leaders of their communities.
On a global level, the campaign is working to increase international pressure on DRC authorities to meet their responsibilities to protect women and girls from sexual violence. These efforts raise awareness of ongoing sexual violence against women and girls in DRC and the devastating impact on their health, their spirits, their families and their communities and to mobilize influential governments and individuals to pressure DRC authorities.
11 February 2009: UNICEF correspondent Elizabeth Kiem reports on the UNICEF and V-Day campaign to stop rape in DR Congo.
Playwright and V-Day founder Eve Ensler discusses V-Day and the struggle in DR Congo
5 March 2007:
Writer and activist Eve Ensler talks about how to stop the use of sexual violence in conflict.
7 August 2007:
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman speaks about meeting with victims of sexual violence in eastern DR Congo, and UNICEF's efforts to stop sexual violence worldwide.