My name is Jane Mukuninwa. I was born in the village of Lulingu, in Shabunda, D.R.Congo. This village until now is one of the worst places for women to live. I was physically and psychologically destroyed by multiple rapes. I was driven half-dead to Panzi Hospital on July 20, 2005 where I have had 9 surgeries as consequences of the atrocities I survived.
Eve Ensler came to visit us at Panzi Hospital in May 2007. We never believed in what she asked us because we were fed up with people who promised but never accomplished their promises. When Eve asked what we wanted she could do for us, we simply answered we wanted a shelter where we could heal, tell our stories and be empowered. We wanted to be empowered because we wanted to take our destinies in hands and we wanted to break the chains of slavery and sufferings. We answered without relying on Eve fulfilling her promise.
For years, many people came here to visit us and most of them pretended being here for compassion. We often felt humiliated being filmed and photographed like animals in a zoo. When Mama Christine Schuler Deschryver told us that she will come with a woman named Eve Ensler, we were a little surprised because she was also against what she called “the new tourism” in DRC and she shared our point of view. Eve Ensler spent two weeks with us, listening to us, holding us, caring for us, and trying so hard to dry out her tears when she couldn’t stop crying. I will never forget that woman and the love she had carrying some of us who were leaking due to the destruction of our bodies; which we apologized but she didn’t care at all about that. Her love was stronger. Who ever came here with such an open heart?
When our dreams came true, I was selected among the women who got trained at City of Joy and who transformed their pain to power. I own all the ingredients of the training and I am a leader and a change –maker. I have proved and believed that change is possible even after a long period of uncertainty, challenge, isolation, despondency, rejection, hopelessness, and anger.
As an illiterate, City of Joy made me able to read and write in the course of six-months. I am able to count money from my small business. Beyond that, I am able to launch self-help projects. The skills I have had before coming to City of Joy allowed me to buy a compound and build a house. I am among the staffs of City of Joy and I help other women heal and bloom in the face of the impossible during their training. I was Jeanne before I came to City of Joy and have turned into Jane after the training in English at City of Joy. I am proud to be called Jane because I have changed and gotten a wind and knowledge to love and own my body.
I rose because of the persistence of violence done on women in churches, homes, schools, administration offices and jails. I rose because many women suffer day after day in my village and nobody cares. I rose because I wanted to alert the power players and denounce the recrudescence of mass and gang rape in my village of origin and in the Congo. I rose because I wanted my voice to echo with the other voices of other activists. I rose because One Billion Rising was a mass action which permitted me to, once more again, break the silence and denounce the violation done on women in their communities. I rose because I was proud to be a part of the many people who said ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. I rose because I wanted to call on women and men who love them to break the chains of muteness and powerlessness and take action to speak for those who still suffer in their confinements and who can’t dare speak out.
Knowing that the crux of the RISING of February 14, 2014 is JUSTICE, I want to rise against the institutions such as the Law of Courts, Police Stations and others which are entitled to justice, but which have given up. My rising is a wakeup call to all the survivors of violence to speak out and to take to the streets to demand justice. I must rise because of impunity. I was raped and destroyed but I have never seen my perpetrators placed under arrest. I will rise to denounce that perpetrators are more secured than the victims in the Congo. There is NO JUSTICE. Corruption and impunity to which leaders and perpetrators are used put many victims in danger. I will rise for justice to demand transitional justice and reparations for victims, myself included.
I am very thankful to V-DAY. They let us realize our dreams, be women among other women, and be respected. We’ll fight until the violence stops.