"If we just sat with crossed arms, what would happen then?" —Denise Siwatula, DRC
This week, we are inspired by “I Am Congo: Amazing lives in a place the world has left for dead,” a new collection of videos from our friends at The Enough Project, spotlighting grassroots leaders in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Through this groundbreaking video series, The Enough Project hopes to introduce more people to the DRC and shed new light on this conflict region through the voices and stories of individuals who are building a new, peaceful Congo.
A study released last year by the American Health Association revealed that more than 400,000 Congolese women ages 15 to 49 experienced rape between 2006 and 2007—equivalent to 1,152 women raped every day. Often referred to as “the worst place in the world to be a woman or girl” due to the systematic rape of women in the region, the violent and deadly conflict within DRC has claimed at least 5.4 million lives since the outbreak of war in 1998.
Enter human rights lawyer Denise Siwatula who fled a deadly volcanic eruption in Goma in 2002, armed only with her law book and determination to bring justice to women survivors of rape. Denise now works with Synergie des Femmes pour les Victimes de Violences Sexuelles (SVFS), a coalition of 35 local organizations working to increase support for survivors of rape and sexual violence in North Kivu, DRC.
Denise works tirelessly to prosecute perpetrators of rape within a broken justice system, where—despite a national law criminalizing rape—women face stigma, economic inequalities, and a corrupt legal system heavily influenced through bribery. And while very few of her cases result in justice for the victims, Denise’s persistence demonstrates the resilience and readiness of Congolese women to speak out against violence and lead their communities to peace and healing.
Through Enough Project’s groundbreaking video series you can hear Denise’s story as well as the stories of four everyday men and women heroes—a conservationist, artist, activist, and community leader—who are defining a new Congo.