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V-DAY, UNICEF call for end to rape, sexual torture against girls in eastern DRC

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UNICEF - August 7, 2007

Highlighting the issue of violence against women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), renowned playwright Eve Ensler has chronicled her first-hand encounters with women in eastern DRC, where sexual violence has become a routine weapon of war. Her account appears in Glamour magazine today. V-Day founder, Eve Ensler launches “Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource, Power To The Women And Girls Of The Democratic Republic Of Congo” in Glamour Magazine

NEW YORK, 6 August 2007 - Highlighting the issue of violence against women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), renowned playwright Eve Ensler has chronicled her first-hand encounters with women in eastern DRC, where sexual violence has become a routine weapon of war. Her account appears in Glamour magazine today.

Since 1996, sexual violence against women and children in the eastern part of the DRC has been used to torture and humiliate women and girls and destroy families. UNICEF estimates that hundreds of thousands of women and girls have been raped since the conflict began in DRC. In addition to the severe psychological impact, sexual violence leaves many survivors with genital lesions, traumatic fistulae and other physical wounds, as well as unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

“Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource, Power To The Women And Girls Of The Democratic Republic Of Congo” is being initiated by the women of Eastern DRC, V-Day and UNICEF on behalf of UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict. The campaign calls for an end to the violence and to impunity for those who commit these atrocities.

“Before I went to the Congo, I'd spent the past 10 years working on V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls. I'd traveled to the rape mines of the world--places like Bosnia, Afghanistan and Haiti, where rape has been used as a tool of war. But nothing I ever experienced felt as ghastly, terrifying and complete as the sexual torture and attempted destruction of the female species here. The violence is a threat to all; young girls and village elders alike are at risk. It is not too strong to call this a femicide, to say that the future of the Congo's women is in serious jeopardy,” Ensler states.

In her article, Ensler described her June visit to Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, where UNICEF funds medical assistance, counseling, and practical support for women who have experienced sexual violence. The article revealed their intensely personal stories, their undying spirit, and the work of such heroes as Dr. Denis Mugwebe of the Panzi Hospital where many of the survivors, often young girls, are treated.

UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman who has also been to the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, added, “When you have spoken to these women and girls, and listened to their stories, you clearly understand just how devastating their circumstances are. Simple, everyday tasks, like gathering wood or fetching water, expose them to grave danger. They must be allowed to live in a secure environment.”

The “Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource, Power To The Women And Girls Of The Democratic Republic Of Congo” campaign calls for an end to impunity for sexual violence, for measures to ensure that state armed forces and police do not perpetrate sexual violence against women and girls and for the full implementation of national laws that protect and empower women.

Within DRC, partners such Panzi Hospital, Coopi and HEAL Africa as well as survivors, women leaders and local activists, will document personal histories, run educational workshops, and spread the word about sexual violence via radio, comic books, theatre, song, leaflets, and a website. Local women's and survivors' groups will be encouraged to participate and make their voices heard at all levels of government as well as the judiciary and the police.

V-Day will also highlight the women of Democratic Republic of Congo in its 2009 Spotlight campaign, spreading the word via thousands of annual V-Day benefits and activists. Previous V-Day Spotlight campaigns have focused on Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan, Mexico, and India.

Funds raised will support local groups that provide counseling, medical services and legal aid on the ground. A centerpiece will be the creation of City of Joy in Bukavu – a centre for survivors who have been left without family, community or the capacity to have children. City of Joy will give them a safe place to live while providing an education, leadership training and a chance to earn income.

How you can help:

- Write to the President of DRC, His Excellency the President of DR Congo Joseph Kabila Kabange, urging the Government to do more to stop violence against women and girls and bring perpetrators to justice. Send letters C/O UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict (UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict, P.O. Box 3862, New York, NY 10163).

- Become a founding supporter of the City of Joy by sending a donation.

- Educate yourself, your friends and your community. Hold reading groups and learn about women and girls in the DRC and other conflict zones around the world.

For information: http://www.vday.org/drcongo.


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