My Heart Silently Weeps for the People of the Congo.
I want to talk about something that tugs at my heart every single time, without fail, when I hear about it. The people of the Congo. I am not going to get into statistics and just list facts but simply share with you the article that opened my eyes to the evil that takes place there. About 6 years ago I was at my mom’s house sitting at the bar in the kitchen and there was an O Magazine sitting in front of me. I started to thumb threw it and came across an article about the women in the Congo. Postcards From the Edge – Women of the Congo. I started reading the article and my heart started to ache, tears started to form and began to run down my cheeks. I could not believe what I was reading, I could not believe the evil these women endure on a daily basis, I sat in disbelief as I read about the children and men. That day I became aware of the Congo and the war that has been going on for decades that brings so much pain to so many innocent people. It has never left me, I can remember that day, my emotions, the pain my heart felt like I just read it yesterday. The article tells personal stories of 17 women that have endured the tragedy, rape, and murders of their family. Every single one of them raped, the majority impregnated from the rapes, many scared physically from the beatings and rapes, and every single one of them with emotional scares that run so deep they have become numb and can “only exist” but yet try so hard to forget and move on and give their children a life and hope. Many of the women’s husbands that weren’t murdered or taken have simply left their wives due to being raped and the shame it brings to the family. It is heart wrenching.
“For nearly a decade, women in the eastern Congo have endured unimaginable acts of sexual cruelty, leaving them shamed, abandoned by their families, shunned by their villages, and ignored by the world. Last December we asked readers to write notes of support inviting these women to tell their stories. Here, a few of their responses, encompassing both the horror of their experiences—and the glimmer of hope an extraordinary organization is giving them.”
Their stories are unbelievable and hard to grasp that this is their reality. A reality that is unfathomable, cruel, evil, sad. Here are some excerpts from a few women.
“In 2002, the Interahamwe who had occupied our village and surrounding areas moved. There was some calm in my neighborhood. But in August of that year, the Interahamwe returned. We were in church when they came. They were many; each took a woman and instructed them to go home. Once at our houses, they told the husbands to go fetch wood. From there on they began systematically raping the women. The Interahamwe that came to my home decided to settle in. He stayed for one year. During that period, I lived like a prisoner. He raped me when he wanted and how he wanted without ever speaking to me or looking at me in the eyes. I lived this horrendous life until May of 2003, when I escaped with my two children to Bukavu. We walked for one month, only in the daylight.”
Suzane Mawazo Mí Maheshe, 35, mother of five
“One of the Interahamwe came to the room where I was staying with the children. When he saw me, he took me by the hand and dragged me out of the room and told the others, “I have found a woman.” At this point they decided to tie up my husband. They told him to hold the flashlight so he could see how they would rape me. My husband refused to hold the flashlight and said that he would rather die than watch the rape of his wife. They started beating him. He was bleeding and crying out loud. My oldest son came out to see what was happening. When they saw my oldest son, one of the Interahamwe punched my son in the left eye with his gun. (Today, that eye is damaged and he cannot see out of it.) My husband finally held the flashlight. In front of his eyes, three of the Interahamwe raped me successively. When they finished, they collected everything in the house. Close to the early hours of the morning, we heard a whistle outside. It was the commander of the operation, calling for everyone to return. They told me and my husband to transport the materials they had stolen from us. I was granted the right to take my youngest child, who was three months old.”
Chantal Riziki M’Marure, 47, mother of seven
“At the outbreak of the 1996 war, my suffering started. onroute to topple then-President Mobutu, rebels associated with former President Laurent Kabila came into my house and beat my husband to death. When he was dead they ripped his stomach open. While they were doing this to my husband, they took my five boys and started beating them to their eventual deaths and defiled them in the same manner they had done to husband. They stabbed me in my right cheek, and again in my right arm, my forehead, my left arm, and below the belly. I was near death. I cried, but none of my neighbors could come to my rescue, as they too were being victimized.
I was flat on the floor near death, and they continued to beat me. When I was finally unconscious, they thought I was dead like my husband and my kids. They left. But during the night, they returned three times to make sure that I was indeed dead. Since I could not move, I stayed in the same position they had left me. They were assured that I was not alive.”
An organization has been started called Women for Women International, Helping Women Survivors of War.
“Since its creation, Women for Women International has given hope to more than 299,000 women survivors of war and conflict and helped them move toward economic self-sufficiency with our year-long program of direct aid, rights education, job skills training, and small business development. We have distributed $95 million in direct aid, microcredit loans, and other program services. Since 1993, Women for Women International has mobilized more than 250,000 women and men in 130 countries worldwide to reach out and support women survivors of war – one woman at a time.”
Many women in the Congo and other war ravaged areas have taken part in the Women of Women year long program and have a road of hope now…helped back on their feet and ready to live once more. What an amazing organization.
In another article from O Magazine that was inspired from readers and their overwhelming response to the above article is I am Starting to Throw Away My Worries One by One. In this article women of war tell their stories of healing and how Women for Women helped them.
Maria Birange, 52
“I cannot stop grieving. I know I must focus on my life and the children who are still alive, but I am still very heartbroken.” Even after the program, her memory is matted with unbearable events: She was raped by four rebels, one after the other. “When they asked my two sons to open my legs for them, my boys refused. So they killed them both. Then they took my old mother and burned her alive. She cried as she was burning. I could smell her flesh. There was nothing I could do.”
Now, however, Maria has a successful business, selling beer and flour. “Things have improved because I can eat at least once a day,” she says. “I have two girls, 15 and 17, who I am sending to school; I am paying for the education of my 13-year-old nephew as well. My children must continue their education. I hold on to life for them.”
Marie Donatienne Nyakasane, 33
“I know how to calm myself now when all the images start coming back—time and my work have been healing forces.”
Marie, who was raped on two separate occasions, responded by starting an organization to help victims of sexual violence. “Many of the women ended up with HIV/AIDS,” she says. “I was lucky not to. But this helped me realize that I must have courage because there are others who need me.”
Now Marie’s family is getting into the healing act. Her husband, who left her after the first attack, returned two years later, and their relationship is much improved. “Before, a day would not go by without reference to my rape, but he no longer speaks badly to me,” she says, noting that he’s had to deal with his failure to protect her. “And he has now completely committed himself to helping other men understand their own trauma. Since we started this work, 93 men who had left their raped wives decided to come back after counseling.” Marie’s daughter Aline, raped at age 8 along with her mother, is determined to study human rights law.
To learn about how you can help women in the Congo and all over the world, visit http://www.womenforwomen.org.
These stories come from women who have been on the brink of death, have witnessed the cruelest acts, innocence has been taken, families have been destroyed. They have witnessed first hand evil and what horror it can bring. But yet with support they find strength and hope, hope for the children, hope for their lives to continue and to once again become “normal”. We can all learn something from these women, that you must charge on.
It breaks me down inside to know that this is going on. It makes me feel helpless. I want so badly to bring women here with me into my life, into my home and make it all better but I can’t. If I had the means to relocate just one woman or family here with me I would but that is just unrealistic for me. What I can do is help in any way I can. What is realistic for me at this time is donating to Women for Women International and that is what I will do. If I can just help a little bit I will feel better. 6 years ago when I first read that article I was not in a position to help by donating but now I am and I will.
What gets my blood boiling is that this war is going on and has been going on for so long. Here we are helping out every other country and yet we do nothing for these people. In a place where there is no government of any kind, no rules, no laws. Every individual must look out for themselves and hope to make it through the day. Could you imagine their reality? I could not. If any country needs help from us, in my opinion it is the Congo. The people of the Congo are left to defend for themselves against the rebels and the militia with no help…at all. Why do we just sit back and let women get raped everyday, children being recruited to do these acts for the rebels, children getting murdered, husbands beaten and murdered, innocent people are being dismembered for trying to defend their families and belongings, people are being burnt alive but yet we do nothing for this country. How long will this go on before something is done? Will so much time pass that no one will survive but the ones with control and guns? It saddens me and makes me very angry.
We must do something.
Posted on March 7, 2011, in life, Other and tagged Blog, Bukavu, children, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, events, Human, life, miscellaneous, other, People, Rape, Rwanda, thoughts, Women, Women for Women International. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.