After a powerful journey to Rwanda and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the Women of Congo Speak Out delegates have returned home to share the needs and demands of Congolese women. The delegates– led by Nobel peace laureate Leymah Gbowee – heard from Congolese women who are using innovative and extraordinary strategies to end conflict and sexual violence against women in the region.
Highlights of our delegation included:
- A visit to the Rwanda Genocide Memorial Centre in Kigali, Rwanda
- A visit to the Karibuni Wamama Medical Clinic and meetings with government officials in Bunia
- A meeting with leading women’s organizations in Bunia
- A visit to Panzi Hospital and City of Joy in Bukavu
The delegates came to understand the significant challenges facing Congolese women in their pursuit for peace. Eastern Congo remains plagued with conflict. Failed reintegration of former soldiers has spiked domestic violence and women-led grassroots initiatives remain grossly underfunded and under-resourced. To compound the issue, members of various militia’s continue to use women’s bodies as a battlefield and impunity for sexual violence perpetrators remains rampant.
Despite these challenges, we met with over 350 women who are committed to changing the circumstances in which they live. Women are joining together to advance peace, support survivors of sexual violence, and demand justice for committed atrocities. As Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee says, “They say that the DRC is the rape capital of the world, but what I see is that it is the capital of strong women and solidarity among women.”
We are committed to spotlighting and amplifying the voices of women activists who work for peace around the world. Following the delegation, we brought Congo women’s voices to a series of meetings with international aid organizations and government officials in Nairobi, Kenya. This June, we will carry the stories of Congo’s women to the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, held in London.
We are extremely grateful to the members of the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict for generously inviting and hosting us in the Congo, and to YOU – thank you for following us online to hear #CongoWomenSpeak!