Last night I cried. I cried from deep inside of me. It hurt in places that I had forgotten hurt but not as much as the women that I was watching hurt. I lay in bed and hugged my pillow. I wanted to hug all these women that were hurting. Instead I cried myself to sleep.
I was watching City of Joy a documentary on Netflix about Rape in the Congo. Madeleine Gavin’s documentary tells the story of Dr Dennis Mukwege a gynaecologist who for many years has been operating on women who have been raped and sexually tortured in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He works in the City of Joy, a place where survivors go to heal both physically and spiritually. He and his family have been threatened, an attempt made on his life and still, he has worked tirelessly to repair, stitch together and heal women.
Dr Mukwege set up the City of Joy with women’s rights activist Christine Schuler Deschryver and Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues and founder of V-Day. Schuler Deschryver is the director and works with staff to oversee day-to-day operations, while Mukwege serves as an adviser and Ensler helps to raise funds and awareness.
Dr Mukwege says:
“I identify every woman raped with my wife, every mother, with my own mother and every child with my own children.” He was recently awarded the Nobel peace prize for his work.
The story is not new as many of you reading this know only too well. I have listened and held the hands of many women while they recounted their accounts of rape and violence when I worked in a drop in Asylum Centre in London. So many of the women came from the Congo – they were the lucky ones. They had escaped. But they were horrifically scarred and had to endure this pain alone, fearful of being deported back to a country where they witnessed and experienced unimaginable violence.
It is uncomfortable watching, but also a story of triumph over adversity. It is necessary viewing and I ask anyone who believes that asylum seekers in the UK should be returned to their country of origin, to watch this documentary. I challenge them not to be moved not to feel remorse not to change their attitudes towards any women who might find themselves hoping to find a safe haven here in the UK.
A poignant reminder in the film of the children who have also suffered is when a child looks at Christine Deschryver feet and says:
“I wish I had long feet like you because you can run fast and run away from the bad men, they will not catch you because you have long feet to escape.”
I know that I am preaching to the converted and that most of you reading this already know about the abominable atrocities that have occurred in the Congo and the rest of the world’s complicity in this war because of their own self-interest. The Congo is rich in the four most commonly mined minerals: coltan, tin, tungsten and gold and it is these valuable minerals that companies around the world need for computers phones and other electronics and what has led to militia groups fighting to control the mines. Many of the victims of these militia groups are women and children.
So, I am sharing this in the hope that one person, one of the unconverted, will be sufficiently moved to change their attitude. My brother who was a political activist always said we are all just a blade of grass in a field. And it is up to each blade to start the conversation. So let’s keep talking
“Let’s be careful out there”