The following update explains the achievements of City of Joy in the healing of 178 women and girls who graduated in 2015 from the leadership program. It describes all the ingredients of the program that transformed the Pain of these women into Power. As of June 2015 we had graduated 579 women and all got reinserted in their communities. At the end of 2015, City of Joy has graduated 669 including the eighth class.
Achievements of the Year: A Portrait of the Women in their Community Before the Program
During the recruitment process the staff met with women and applied our admission criteria. During the narration of their stories, they informed that they had great losses after being subjected to harsh, inhumane acts such as kidnapping, incest, assault and battery, sex slavery, rape, etc. These acts have traumatized them to such an extent that they had feelings of listlessness and general dissatisfaction. When they arrived at City of Joy, they were offered time tostart a journey and explore various milestones of their lives. This opportunity helped every woman live to her fullest potential with dignity and sense of self-worth.
Impact of the Leadership Program
Every woman’s life was characterized by a sharp despair, and a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. Given that when she arrived at City of Joy after she had known what she was called for and could tell her real problem with less precision, though, the beneficiary of therapy was initiated to trace back the major events and the climax of her survived harsh atrocities to her history and lifeline. As all the activities women do are based on the ten guiding principles of City of Joy.
The ten guiding principles in which all the activities were/are grounded served/serve as a road-map to change and healing. These principles were/are a brilliant headlight in darkness. The stay women spent at City of Joy conferred on them a meaning of life and the ingredients of the training played a role of an antidote for trauma.
This year like in other past years, the empowering program covered three major sections.
Firstly, Women were emotionally healed during therapy gatherings in which they received specialized counseling with trained social workers.
Secondly, they received training for capacity building. For example, they were trained in comprehensive sexuality education so that they could know, cherish and own their bodies they hated before. They were trained in judicial organization, competence and proceedings and gender rights & civic and political education so that they can know their rights and be equipped to demand them when they are violated, and participate in the management of their country. Trainees received instructions in pacific cohabitation and conflict management so that they cannot make trouble with neighbors or relatives with whom they had litigations before but to know how to pacifically manage and transform every conflict they had before and that they will still have for social cohesion.They were trained in agriculture and animal husbandry with a view to improve their lands, protect Mother Nature and become economically empowered through rabbit husbandry, pigs farming, etc. The training in communication helped women to be able to communicate effectively.
They were trained in self-defense to know how they should behave during the period of insecurity and how their life should be principles to avoid being assaulted or be able to practice self-defense techniques in case of danger/attack.
Thirdly, women benefitted from another set of trainings related to livelihood. Here, they improved such techniques as sewing, knitting, bread-making, soap-making, preparing fritters, managing a restaurant and healthily feed the body with culinary arts, etc. This set of trainings aimed at preparing women for future life so that they can feel free to initiate self-help activitiesfor their economic independence in their communities.
City of Joy is an Antidote for Low-Esteem
We should support here the premise that women who come traumatized and who have recurrent nervous breakdowns turn into women filled with an irresistible feeling of plenitude at the end of their healing process at City of Joy. This new portrait they cover in contrasts with the sensation of the existential gap that hindered them before when everything looked absurd and dark, and when some wished to commit suicide as a means to escape from their distress.
With the acknowledgement that self-confidence is the primary factor of perseverance in the accomplishment of any task, the women we sheltered this year gained self-confidence because they were determined to take up space in their communities and lead upon graduating from the program. This self-confidence together with the spirit of self-centered fulfillment that every woman had during the healing process conferred courage and audacity on everyone so that she could persevere and be committed to becoming change-maker. In this way, the empowered leaders of City of Joy were committed to bringing revolution to the minds of their contemporaries in their communities and to ending all retrograde ways and customs which degrade women. This commitment was the fruit of the training and the encouragement from the trainers.
The activities which were implemented at City of Joy gave the opportunity to every woman to examine her passion, tendencies, persisting interests, and dreams. It was also an occasion given to every woman to discern on the momentum and efforts she made to heal from her trauma. Here, the trained mentors by City of Joy acted as guides, mothers, educators, etc. who encouraged the women to regain their confidence and reconstruct their lives.
One Billion Rising
On February 2015 the rising was organized in Bukavu with grassroots, activists and the staff of City of Joy, and for the first time in Kinshasa. The rising justifies how Congolese can’t cease voicing their intolerance of violence through dance and drumming in order to stand for gender equity, human rights, transitional justice, etc. During the campaign we took action to explain what revolution means and looks like. It is transformation.It is the change of old degrading systems and patriarchy. It is the change of paradigm.
The rising elevated and deepened the conversation or actions towards justice. When we took to the streets the talks and conversation we made were centered on the responsibility of the government towards justice. Most of the interveners and participants insisted that Congolese women who were helped by the campaign to know what justice is will not keep quiet as long as the torment of war they endured remains unpunished. Congolese women and men who love them will always demand the institutionalization of the mechanisms of transitional justice.
One Billion Rising Revolution in Kinshasa
On June 4th, 2015,City of Joy graduated 88 women in an extraordinary ceremony. The graduation day was a special day for women who came as survivors of gender- based violence to express their happiness to go back to their communities with fierce, power and capacity to lead and change such things as retrograde customs which prevent women from having and demanding their rights because they experience violence almost every day in their households, schools/colleges, work places, churches, etc.
The graduation day was a day during 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.
The Governor and other men honor city of joy women on their graduation
Women are celebrating their healing on their graduation
On December 17,2015, we graduated 90 women and girls after six full months of training, healing and transformation. The graduation was an opportunity for every woman to express her feeling of satisfaction after getting power and abilities to lead and to make change happen. The thrill of every graduate was exceptional and the audacity was unequaled. The excitement to join the community with a view to let their contemporaries who lived with them as survivors was something that pushed the graduates to promise revolution as new seeds and leaders.
There were initiatives taken by graduates themselves on their graduation day. Two days before they graduated they proposed to have the ceremony map how they have become leaders. With this view, all the elements that contributed to their healing and leadership were acted out and shown to the participants. This is the reason why many women said and performed that they got special power thanks to literacy, some said they are empowered because they can talk to a crowd of people to discuss about something that really matters. Many proved that their power is grounded in their abilities to initiate self-help activities because of the knowledge they acquired in entrepreneurship, culinary arts, sewing, soap making, knitting, etc. Other women declared on their graduation that after six months of therapy and with the help the training they got for capacity building, they will never cease taking action in their communities by demanding their rights.
V-Day and City of Joy were honored in Belgium on April 11, 2015. The Director of City of Joy and V-day country Representative in DRC, Christine Schuler Deschryver was awarded the prize of André Ryckmans for her commitment towards the poor in DRC.