In two separate stories from Africa this week, two groups of individuals helped female survivors of sexual assault to graduate from an empowerment class and helped a girl escape an arranged marriage in the Democratic Republic of the (DRC) Congo and Kenya, respectively.
In the DRC, 1,152 women are raped daily, as reported by the American Journal of Public Health last year. Rape as a weapon of Congo’s ongoing civil war is as common as to be the kind of occurrence that, by this statistic, happens 48 times per hour.
A six-month program in Bukavu, Congo, called City of Joy, teaches leadership skills and provides therapy through dance, sex education, and theater to survivors of rape. This Saturday, 180 women will make up City of Joy’s first graduating class. Christine Deschryver, program director, says, “These women have moved from pain to power and will return to their homes ready to help revolutionize their communities.” City of Joy is a grassroots program that has brought strength to survivors of gender-based violence through awareness of a horrific problem and the power of community and activism.
In Kenya exists the issues of arranged marriage and lack of education for young girls. In a primary school in Narok South district, students forced the mother of a 14-year old pupil to allow her return to class, instead of leaving her schooling, to marry a middle-aged man. Gladys Sairowua, the head girl at Aitong Primary School, led the protest of Sermetei Kipeen’s marriage to preserve the importance of her education. “She was a bright pupil and forcing her for early marriage is going to render her education useless,” Sairowua said. The high dropout rate of young women being married or incapacitated by FGM before finishing their schooling has led the girls and teachers of this school to monitor each other until their primary education is complete. They have resolved to use the method of protesting in front of a student’s home until her parents return her to her educational duties.
Where women are denied access to their most basic bodily rights and educational rights, where autonomy is not often considered something for women at all, movements are taking place nonetheless. The individuals of City of Joy and Aitong Primary School found their silver lining amongst the rubble of human rights.