Conceived By Congolese Women and Created By V-Day and The Fondation Panzi (DRC) With Support From UNICEF, City Of Joy Offers New Platform and Vision
February 4, 2011 - Bukavu, DRC - V-Day and the Fondation Panzi
(DRC), with support from UNICEF, announce today the opening of City of Joy, a revolutionary new community for women survivors of gender violence in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). City of Joy will provide up to 180 Congolese women a year with an opportunity to benefit from group therapy; self-defense training; comprehensive sexuality education (covering HIV/AIDS, family planning); economic empowerment; storytelling; dance; theater; ecology and horticulture. Created from their vision, Congolese women will run, operate and direct City of Joy themselves.
City of Joy marks the next chapter in V-Day's ongoing campaign, STOP RAPING OUR GREATEST RESOURCE: Power to the Women and Girls of the DRC. It will provide a powerful new platform for Congolese women to turn their pain to power, restore their sense of agency over their lives, and become leaders who will steer Eastern Congo's destiny towards peace. The community will invest in the healing and empowerment of survivors of gender violence -- who offer the best hope for a far-reaching and positive impact on the future of Congolese society......more
Opening of the City of Joy
Remarks- Melanne Verveer -Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues
Bukavu, South Kivu, Congo (Kinshasa)- February 4, 2011
I also want to tell you that I did not come here alone. I am joined by Congresswomen Jan Schakowsky, staff from the U.S. Congress, the State Department, and the Embassy and USAID Mission in Kinshasa, led here today by the Charge.
The U.S. will continue to stand with you as we work on many levels as a partner with others working to end the conflict and the atrocities, the systematic rape that is nothing less than crimes against humanity. There are times you may feel alone but we are here to assure you that you are not alone. We in the U.S. are continuing and accelerating our efforts to support you and we are doing this on many levels.
A little over a year ago, Secretary Clinton came to eastern Congo, to Goma, and saw firsthand the urgent need for greater efforts to address sexual violence against women. She heard your plea for an end to impunity and for a legal system that punishes the perpetrators of these crimes from top commanders down.
She heard your message that the national army needs to be reformed. It needs to be a force that protects people – a force trained and paid. She heard you tell her the minerals trade should be a source of wealth for people, not a source of violence, and that there must be laws and rules to regulate it. She heard you when you said that we all need to do more to put an end to sexual violence.
She took your message to President Kabila, to your government. Inaction is not an option. In the end it is your government that must meet its obligation and responsibilities here. She took your message to the United Nations Security Council where the U.S. introduced Resolution 1888, which was adopted by all members of the Council, to strengthen the international community’s resolve to prevent sexual violence.
Through this resolution, Margot Wallstrom, who is here today, was appointed Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to lead, coordinate, and advocate for additional efforts to end sexual violence in conflict and to bring new resources to bear.
In December, USAID launched $42 million in programs in the Kivus, Orientale, and Maniema provinces to prevent future violence and improve access to care for survivors. Panzi Hospital is one of our key partners here.
As part of the on-going commitment by the U.S. government to respond to GBV, the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief has committed $15 million to support the response to GBV through HIV/AIDS programming over the next three years.
And today we announce an additional $3 million to protect orphans and vulnerable children, especially girls, by focusing on access to education, well functioning child protection systems, food security, economic strengthening, and shelter and care. Investing in girls is essential to building a society where girls are safe and valued.
Just a few months ago, Secretary Clinton returned to the UN Security Council where she announced that the U.S. Government would develop a National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security.
If we collectively are to achieve our goals – to reduce the number of conflicts around the world, to eliminate rape as a weapon of war, to combat the culture of impunity for sexual violence, to build sustainable peace – we must draw on the full contributions of both women and men in every aspect of peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peace building.
She also told the Security Council that although important new steps have been taken here in the DRC to end the violence, that not enough has been done yet by the Congolese Government, the United Nations or the international community, to help bring about an end to the conflict and to the ongoing impunity.
MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping force, is working to do a better job to protect civilians through additional tools and commitments, such as the provision of cell phones, joint patrols, and increased presence.
In seeing you here today and your remarkable accomplishments, we are inspired and humbled. In Kinshasa when I meet with officials of your government on Monday, I will tell them about what you have created here and will bring your message to end the atrocities and to address the range of issues you raise.
I will offer them the continued support of the US to assist the Government of the DRC in fulfilling its responsibilities to its citizens. In our partnership with the Norwegian government, which is represented here today by Vice Minister Ingrid Fiskaa, and our colleagues in the international community, we will support your vision of the future you and the Congo so richly deserve.
But ultimately it is the responsibility of the government of the DRC to address the challenges here. You are raising your voices, and the upcoming elections provide you an important opportunity to use your voice to demand that the government at all levels respond to your needs and those of your fellow citizens.
Buy a Handmade Congolese Bag to Support the Campaign
The bags are sewn through Healing Arts, an organization in Goma, DRC, which equips women and vulnerable populations with skills, opportunities, and education so that they are economically capable to support themselves and their families.
Based out of the HEAL Africa hospital in Goma, which specializes in fistula repair surgery, Healing Arts teaches patients who are survivors of sexual violence how to sew, make soap, bake bread, and weave, which provides them with a dependable income during their stay at the hospital.
When a woman returns home after treatment, Healing Arts gives her an income generation grant so that she may continue to develop her skills and business.
Healing Arts also works with a network of widows and disabilities cooperatives to sew the campaign purses in addition to other Healing Arts products, which are sold in DRC, US, and Canada.
HEAL Africa: http://www.healafrica.org/