In a time when few in the world are paying attention to the horrors of the Congo, author, feminist and playwright Eve Ensler has been a life saver to many people in that war torn nation. The entire world is focused on the horrors in Syria where over 100,000 have died but basically ignores the genocide in the Congo where over six million have died in the last two decades. In the Eastern provinces of that nation there are areas where 75% of the women have been brutally raped - often gang raped at a young age.
In steps Eve Ensler who created the first facility to assist those women called the City of Joy. The safe haven provides medical care, counseling, education and ways for women to empower themselves both professionally and personally. She recently wrote from the City of Joy after being there a month volunteering.
Here are excerpts from her letter and pictures from this remarkable place with a name that defies the reality of the horror in that nation.
First let me begin with the deepest thank you to all of you who believed in City of Joy and have stood by us with your confidence and support. I have spent the month here and all I can say, is you would be proud. Let me start by describing the current state of Bukavu. It is nothing short of catastrophic. In one of the richest resourced countries in the world, the poverty is inconceivable. In a place where it rains almost every day, there is no water.
It is a country with the most fertile green fields, people are starving. There is no electricity. Most of the month the children have been sent home from school as the teachers are on strike. (they have not been paid). Even the policemen are begging for food. The road is better but most of the time we have not driven on it as there are so many reasons for detours. This is the environment our director Christine and her astounding staff face and transcend every day. Then of course there is the issue of security. The month I have been here there have been no incidents, but it feels arbitrary as there is no real political basis for security and one feels anything can happen at any time.
I will not even begin to tackle here the many proposals that seem to be circulating for peace in Congo. They either feel rhetorical or implausible. I think it is safe to say that if Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi were to get out of Congo, if there were real leadership and a functioning government in Kinshasa, there would be change. But that is not the nature of what I am writing about. We made a decision four years ago to put our energy into the grassroots women of Congo, to support their visions, their plans, their desires, their futures. To believe in their strength. To find the support for them to heal from gender violence of all forms, to be trained and educated in skills and their rights, to become leaders in their communities so that they could build a grassroots movement that eventually would be strong enough to transform this country and turn pain to power.