Chouchou grew up in Bukavu, eastern Congo listening to the transistor radio broadcast news from all over the Congo. She took notice of something odd—she never heard a woman’s voice emanating from the airwaves. Chouchou became committed to ensuring women’s stories and voices were heard in Congo.
In 1997 she started her career as a female radio journalist at a local radio station, Radio Maendeleo. When the Second Congo War erupted in 1999, rebels shut down Radio Maendeleo for being critical of the war. During this time Chouchou was horrified by rebel groups’ use of sexual violence against women. In 2001 Radio Maendeleo reopened. Almost immediately, Chouchou began interviewing women survivors of rape on-air in order to shatter the silence—and taboo—surrounding the issue. She used women’s testimonies to tell people that rape was and continues to be endemic in the Congo.
Needing a platform to not only share survivors’ stories but to also train women as journalists, Chouchou established the South Kivu Media Association in 2003. Since its inception, AFEM has encouraged hundreds of women to share their experience on-air, promoting healing for the women and paving the way for other survivors to come forward. AFEM has also created women’s radio-listening clubs, a safe place where survivors can share their stories and be surrounded by support networks. Hundreds of women now participate in these clubs.
Chouchou is especially devoted to ensuring survivors’ testimonies drive a call to action to end rape in the Congo. In 2006 Chouchou urged the International Criminal Court to include rape and sexual violence in its list of charges against former Congolese commander Thomas Lubanga. To prove her case, she hand delivered over 400 radio broadcasts to the ICC documenting Lubanga’s use of sexual violence during the conflict. In 2012 Lubanga was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Chouchou’s dedication to airing women’s stories has at times endangered both herself and her colleagues. The Committee to Protect Journalists lists Bukavu as one of the most dangerous cities in Africa for journalists. Despite these risks, Chouchou continues to broadcast survivors’ stories and create the next generation of women radio journalists dedicated to women’s rights. She has been internationally recognized for her work by the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award in 2009.