My name is Solange
War has taken a lot from Solange. After she was raped the fourth time, Solange became pregnant. Determined to move forward with her life, she named her daughter Esperanza - meaning “hope.”
I have been raped four times. In 1999, I was raped for the first time after the first war broke out.
In 2004, when another war broke out, I got raped again and my husband was shot by rebels – interahamwe. I still don’t know what motivated them.
Then, in 2005, rebels once again came to my village and raped me. They took us into the woods. My daughter aged nine was raped in front of me. She later died from her injuries. Two of my other children were tortured – they also died.
In 2008, I got raped again.
I decided to leave my village and come to Bukavu city. In November 2009, people were going door to door looking at the situation of women in their homes. They told me to visit the Women for Women International training centre. They enrolled me and now, because of the training, I know how to do cultivation as a job.
We got a lot of training and useful information. For instance, how to live with others in the community, what a balanced diet is, how to feed our children, cleanliness - all this information we receive from Women for Women International. The main challenge is how to get this food so as to be in good health.
I look after my two nephews as well as my surviving children because their parents were killed by interahamwe. I am their mother and father.
You know that back in my village, rape is something which happens on a daily basis.
Here in Bukavu, there is some peace because we can sleep in the house and no one is coming to rape you. Here the main challenge is only hunger. You can sleep and you don’t fear that at night someone will knock on the door and rape you. But in the village, when it’s 4pm you start wondering: ‘Where am I going to spend the night? Maybe they are coming again this night?’. That is why we are really traumatised.
We are disregarded in this society. People point at us and say: “These are rape victims.” It doesn’t honour us. These are the scars from when I was tortured by interahamwe. I have scars all over my body from the beatings. The people in the community mock me, saying I am a rape victim. I have made good friends at Women for Women International because we train in groups and none of us discriminate. We all accept each other.
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For reasons of security and privacy, we are using a photo of a different Women for Women International graduate to represent the woman in the story.
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Our neighbour knocked at the door and asked ‘Why are you not escaping?’ She told us that they are kidnapping girls and killing men, so we decided to run away and not take anything with us.
I know that I should take courage because I survived a hard situation. Every day, I have to wake up and pray and say, thank you God, for I’m still alive. It was hard but now I’m here.
One of my friends told me about Women for Women International and how it provided training for women. That’s when I learned that I wasn’t alone in my suffering. There are other women, who have the same pain.