One Billion Rising: V-Day’s Eve Ensler Launches Global Day of Action, Dance Against Women’s Violence
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JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, in 2008, V-Day worked with UNICEF to organize events in the DRC, where survivors of sexual violence publicly spoke out against violence and about their experiences for the first time. Seven women told their stories in front of community members and government and U.N. officials.
SURVIVOR 1: [translated] When they took my husband and hit him and tied him and tortured him and took him I don’t know where, they went and killed him wherever they had taken him. And then all seven men raped me. Then the neighbors heard what happened and found me unconscious. They looked at me and saw all my insides outside of my body.
SURVIVOR 2: [translated] They started taking the clothes off my children, and I told them, "Please, excuse me, you can’t do that. Instead of raping my children while I watch, just kill me first."
SURVIVOR 3: [translated] A woman is supposed to be respected. We are not objects. Women get pregnant and breast-feed you. How come you disrespect me today in public?
SURVIVOR 4: [translated] The authorities of this country, how do you look at this rape issue and remain silent?
SURVIVOR 1: [translated] We are suffering because of rape. Rape should stop. It must stop.
SURVIVOR 5: [translated] I am speaking so that women who are hiding and others who have AIDS can come out, so they can be taught how to live.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Eve, you’ve had this enormous success at the grassroots level in terms of providing the chance for this kind of organization to go on. What’s been the response of the authorities in the Congo and the government officials to this movement?
EVE ENSLER: Well, you know, it’s interesting coming back to this country after being in Congo. I feel in some ways that the Congolese government, the local governments are actually more responsive to the liberation of women and women coming into their rights than what we’re seeing in our Congress. I’m kind of stunned what’s happening in America right now, that we’re fighting over birth control? I mean, what are we modeling to the rest of the world? It’s appalling.
I’ll tell you a wonderful story. The governor of the Kivus was at our graduation. And, I mean, one of the things that’s happening in City of Joy is that women are turning pain to power and becoming leaders. And he witnessed the whole graduation, where women were giving speeches and demonstrating self-defense moves which they had learned and doing poetry in English from Swahili that they had memorized. And at the end, he gave this incredible speech, where he named each woman, in particular, and talked about who they had become. And the next day, he called us, and he just couldn’t—he couldn’t sleep. He just was blown away. And he actually said to the director, Christine, "You know, I don’t think I realized before this moment what value the Congolese had, what value we had." These are some of the poorest women in the country, and they’re the greatest leaders now, and they’re standing, and they’re putting—and I think there’s been incredible response on the local level to see the transformation of women, grassroots women, who could in fact lead, possibly, Congo out of the terrible situation it’s in right now.
And I think I’ve been very—I just have been very excited to see all of the response around in Congo. For example, the performances women are doing of The Vagina Monologues, the speaking out about sexual rights, the demanding of healthcare, the demanding of birth control. We have a wonderful doctor, Mukwege, who is actually a pastor, I’d like to point out, who was able to give women birth control when they left City of Joy, so that they would protect themselves and be able to rule their own destinies and bodies when they return to their own villages. And to come home and now see our own Congress dictating what women can and cannot do with their bodies and with birth control and with contraception and with—is rather stunning.