In Honour of Womanhood: Fighting For The Soul Of The Congolese Woman.
Watching the Tutu Talks last night on BBC 4 as they discussed the role of women in Africa and if Women Are Strong Enough To Lead Africa? – got me thinking about the different positions women occupy in society, yet they have to fight twice as hard to get and stay there. Chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, I must say, it was a refreshing discussion about the many positions women occupy in African society. In my opinion, this could easily be translated into the different societies of the world, irrespective of race, tradition, culture, social and political background. A woman is a woman – she is a wife, mother, sister, lover, nurturer among the many roles she occupies in life and society.
The members of the panel were diverse and from different works of life in South Africa, but the topic discussed, applies to women from all over Africa. They talked about the violence perpetrated against women in the DRC, South Africa and other countries. It is interesting to find that rape has become the foremost form of weapon used against our women. From rape to domestic violence among many other factors that have contributed to the oppression, suppression and the repression of women, the use of rape as a weapon of war is one that has left me numb in ways I did not expect.
I was told and taught that when working on story as a journalist, do your best not to get involved. However, how do you separate yourself from the stories you are reading when it could easily be you in the position of the women, who are suffering mentally, emotionally and physically in ways that are just too difficult to comprehend, due to the heinous crimes being committed against them. Hence, when I watched the documentary, The World’s Most Dangerous Place For Women, I could not help but feel connected to the women, whose stories were being told. While I have never experienced what they have suffered, I am a woman and conscious of how much I love my body and want to protect it. I recently wrote a feature on the same subject and it was very hard to write because the evil I was reading was too much for me to stomach.
The main subject of this documentary is 23-year-old Judith Wanga, who was born in the DRC but grew up in London. After 20 years in London, she goes back home, to a country that has been in turmoil for years and has the world talking about ways it can bring an end to the use of rape as a weapon of war. As Judith journeys through the DRC and hears the different stories, you can clearly see the lens with which she views life is being repositioned due to the experiences of the women she meets. From those at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, to the woman who is starting a charity to enable women stand up for themselves, to the two women who have been raped and abandoned by their husbands and families.
What left a painful sting in my spirit was the little girl who had also been raped. She was the product of rape and then, she too was raped at her young age. Her body is yet to develop but these men thought it was okay to take her life away before she starts living. What kind of a man forgets that men do not rape, they make love is a question I asked a male friend sometime ago. So, I wonder, what kind of a man forgets his own blood line and continuously perpetuates such horrible crimes against his own sisters, mothers, daughters and lovers? These crimes are carried out by both the government troops and the frigging militias. What a bunch of boys because real men don’t rape.
I know a few people have commented the documentary is part of a series of programmes on the BBC, which shows Africa in a negative light. However, this is one documentary that was much needed and did its job. If the title and content upsets you, do something about it by speaking up for the Congolese women whose souls and spirits are being destroyed. They deserve better.
It is going to be hard hard for me, to get the image of the little girl who was raped and Judith’s reaction, she was physically sick and visibly shaken by what she had learnt, out of my mind for a long time. It is not enough to sit in our living rooms, feeling disgusted at what we hear and see. It is time we say enough is enough. No more should the soul of the Congolese woman be ripped apart by the men who are supposed to protect her.
While it is clear for all to see that the systemic rape of women brings shame on their communities to the point where their husbands and families disown/abandon them, the ultimate aim is to break the soul of the woman and her community. Her community is in their hands. Hence, when they break her soul and destroy her spirit, her male child/children surrenders in shame because the strength that holds them together has lost her strength to live on. But I can assure you, the Congolese women are stronger than we give them credit for. They will not give up on themselves and that is why we must not give up on them either.
In not giving up, we need to hold our governments accountable on their foreign policies and promises, especially where the DRC is concerned. I do not for one second deny that the Congolese people are the only ones who can bring this to an end and heal their land. However, we have to be accountable for the role we play because we use minerals at the root of this protracted daily. Do you know what your mobile phone is made from? Do check! Hence, a form of governance as to who controls and buys them needs to be established but that may be too much to ask. After all, Sierra Leone remains the best example which tells me, money sometimes matters more than the lives being destroyed by those who buy the same minerals, people are killing for. Unfortunately, these women are not ‘Blood Diamonds’ to be mined. They are living diamonds with souls, they have veins and arteries running through them and they feel pain.
To watch the documentary and for a picture story on The New York Times website, follow the links below.