Dearest Congo supporters,
As 2015 comes to a close, we wish to share these recent updates on the achievements of City of Joy and the V-World Farm this year.
It is a report that comes as a result of people like you who care deeply about our work. It gives hope, activates our energy to serve, and lets us keep going in our vision to Transform Pain to Power. The 88 women who graduated in June are the seeds of the revolution we need to make change happen in the history of the DR Congo. The work is being recognized. Recently both VICE and Time magazine came to visit City of Joy for upcoming stories on rape in conflict zones.
It is with the great help of our big V-family, our V-friends and our donors that all these achievements are carried out at the center of madness where survivors of gender violence turn into brave, stunning women. May all of YOU receive our thanks and heartfelt gratitude!
Happiest holidays wishes to you and yours,
Christine & Eve
Christine Schuler Deschryver
Director of City of Joy and V-Day Congo
Playwright & Founder of V-Day & One Billion Rising
CITY OF JOY
Despite the many challenges facing Congo – ongoing conflict, increased violence against women, weather and infrastructure challenges – City of Joy is thriving. To date seven classes, totaling 579 women, have graduated from the program. The City of Joy continues to serve as a center for leadership development where women are transforming their painful pasts into fuel for personal and emotional success, learning real, practical life skills to map out their goals and hopes. At the same time, the City of Joy stands as a powerful symbol for the Congolese people. As one community leader told our staff, the City of Joy is unique because it is focused not on the urgent and immediate needs of survivors (addressing medical needs, etc.), but because it focuses on the long-term leadership capacities of women and the role they will play in the future of Congolese society. City of Joy staff continues to be in close contact with classes that have left, and they too are doing well, integrating into their communities.
On June 4, City of Joy graduated 88 women and girls of the seventh session in an extraordinary ceremony. Among the participants we had the Governor of South-Kivu province, local authorities, parents of graduates, members of partner associations/organizations, and many other guests.
The graduation day was a day in which every woman celebrated herself. It was a day to tell how City of Joy is an engine of transformation in which they lived for six months to turn into brave, beautiful, and strong women leaders. The change – physical, emotional, intellectual, etc. – was something the audience noticed in the face and in the life of every woman. Many parents and associations who referred women to us were unable to identify these women because of their healing and change. Read the full report here.
This Fall, Jane Mukuninwa was interviewed by A.R.T. (Artist Repertory Theater) at Harvard University for their newsletter in anticipation of Eve Ensler’s upcoming one woman play, In The Body of the World, the world premiere of her critically acclaimed memoir of the same name. Jane’s meeting with Eve Ensler in 2007 helped lead to the creation of City of Joy. Jane graduated with the first class and now works as a staff member. Read the interview here.
City of Joy’s sister project, the V-World Farm, is a bustling sustainable farm 30 minutes from the City of Joy. It serves as teaching opportunity for women participants – who learn about farming – and helps to feed the City of Joy. The project has grown leaps and bounds since it was first conceived. Crops abound – honey bee hives, avocados, oranges, pineapples, guavas, maize, string beans, cabbage, celery, carrots amaranth, beans, sweet potatoes, ground nuts, eggplants and tomatoes. The tilapia ponds are brimming with fish, which will help to feed the women at City of Joy and will soon be sold. Thirty tons of rice was harvested and selling the harvest of rice from the year before paid for the new rice machine.
Twenty thousand new trees have been planted along the border of the property and more will be planted in the upcoming months. Construction of houses for women who will live and work at V-World is underway. Upon completion, we will be able to house 40 women. These women will begin to form the basis for the collective that we hope will one day run and own V-World Farm. View more photos here.
Many of you have visited Bukavu and traveled on the roads, especially the main thoroughfare out to City of Joy and Panzi Hospital – Essence Road. Here is a photo of Essence Road recently in the rain juxtaposed with an image of our newest roads at V-World Farm! The completion of these new roads and bridges at V-World Farm took place over the past few months. Infrastructure is critical to the farm as it makes it more accessible to jeeps and cars which bring in supplies and ship out produce and farm products. To see more images, visit the photo blog.
The rising which launched in November 2015 coincided with The Official 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign with the theme “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All!” It is a campaign that focuses specifically on the relationship between militarism and the right to education in situations of violent conflict, in relative peace, and variety of education settings, while continuing to make the links with militarism, as an encompassing patriarchal system of discrimination and inequality based on our relationships to power. It will be launched in the V-World Farm, a farm that proves that a new world is possible.
The rising in DRC in 2016 will bring “THE GREEN REVOLUTION” into focus. Since we started rising and standing in solidarity with women across the world who experience violence in general and those from DRC who have experienced great losses including loss of lives, rape, kidnapping, incest, etc., we need the humanity and the Congo to bring national and international focus to another aspect that needs revolution and for which we are determined to invite people to rise and create a new kind of consciousness through resistance and action.
The campaign of One Billion Rising Revolution: Listen! Act! Rise! 2016 will get inspiration from the paradox of life in the Congo that needs to be revolutionized.
From East to West and from South to North, DR Congo is a paradox, in that it is rich in natural resources yet is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its population has to put up with violence, disease, hunger and the mass displacement of people caused by more or less two decades of wars and cross-border conflicts. With impunity, political impotence, conflicts over natural resources which have continually flared, East Congo has remained a hotbed of all forms of violence.
In 2016, we will tell the DRC and the planet that it is high time for Congolese to bring change and improve their lands, benefit from their forests by keeping bees to produce honey, plowing their lands to become agricultural entrepreneurs, breeding animals for economic empowerment, planting trees to nourish and protect Mother Nature. We will raise the consciousness of rich persons who after buying large lands from poor persons lay them fallow for years and leave the poor to starve and die from hunger. It will be an opportunity for GREEN REVOLUTION!
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*December 31st is the last day to make charitable donations in order to claim them on your 2015 US tax return. V-Day is a top rated charity on Guidestar and Charity Navigator.