By Philippe Lolonga, Harper Hill Global Correspondent, Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo
“As members of the church, we are compelled to confront the issue of rape and stigma. We can no longer cross our arms and stand idly by!” — Bishop Gabriel Unda
The words of United Methodist Bishop Gabriel Unda are becoming more pointed as he continues to rally support to end rape and violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the family-destroying stigmatization that follows.
These movements are growing, locally as well as regionally, as Harper Hill Global’s Women Arise from Stigma campaign resonates with more and more women, and even some men. A march on April 27 in Beni, a city of just under a quarter million, and Mother’s Day observations both raised public awareness on the importance of valuing women and their safety.
Thousands of participants demanded an end to rape, the massacre of civilians and insecurity. A brief video of the march’s passion can be seen here. It coincided with the reintroduction a regular broadcast of Harper Hill’s A Plea To My Father video on RTNC television in North Kivu.
Additionally, clergy are receiving Women Arise from Stigma messages by text and WhatsApp, which often make their way into sermons. These affirming dispatches are shared also among those directly affected by the violence and resulting stigmatization.
Esperance Buhendawa, president of a women’s organization in Kiwanja, praises the initiatives. “We must all bring this awareness in places where there is no television and where raped women sometimes lack respect in their communities.”
A lady is recovering from a 2017 rape in Goma. “In our circles, it is only necessary that we know you have been violated and everyone will start to make fun of you and you even lose credibility. This animation has given hope especially to women raped in North Kivu by men of armed groups,” she says.
Harper Hill Global founder Neelley Hicks said, “Shame is misplaced on the victim. It belongs on the perpetrator. As women arise from stigma, they become harbingers of hope for a better world.”
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