The City of Joy was founded in 2011 in Bukavu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a home for women survivors of sexual violence and a transformational leadership center. The City of Joy was founded with support from the Panzi Foundation, and the V-Day Movement and provides a community where women help each other heal and develop self-sufficiency.
The City of Joy provides much-needed resources to women survivors whose trauma would otherwise go unrecognized. The community provides respite for women and children, offering them psychosocial counseling, computer literacy, cooking, theatre, English and farming lessons. At any given time, approximately 90 survivors, age 14 to 40 take part in a 6 month leadership session.
In a place where significant stigma is associated with rape, the City of Joy helps women gain confidence. By the time they leave, survivors often mobilize to report rape and demand justice from the authorities. To date, 360 women have graduated from the City of Joy leadership program.
The City of Joy is distinct in its autonomous approach to healing, encouraging the women to elect a City of Joy mayor and a local council to determine the city’s priorities based on survivor needs. The V-Day Movement has helped to purchase the V-World Farm which is tended and managed by women from the City of Joy to teach sustainable farming methods.
Director Christine Schuler Deschryver sees the City of Joy as a place of growth, “City of Joy is a community, a place where love lives. Everything is based on love, and I think that’s the only way you can change the world.”
It is estimated that approximately 48 women are raped per hour in the DRC, and violence is especially prevalent in the eastern Congo. However, these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg and point to a larger problem of systemic violence against women in the DRC.
Visit the City of Joy website
City of Joy Works to Help Alleviate Congo’s Ills, New York Times, 6 February 2011.
Volunteer at a local rape crisis center in your community.