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Solange - Democratic Republic of Congo

Women for Women International - Rwanda programme participant. Photo: Les Stone

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 had a child by the rebel who raped me in 2008. I named her Esperanza, meaning "hope". She is named after the daughter of mine who died. I love her very much.

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.

Before Women for Women International, it was very difficult. Now I am getting the monthly sponsorship fund which enables me to send some of my children to school. This makes a lot of difference in my life.

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.

There are many young girls who come from my village who are rape victims. When they come I try to encourage them, telling them "You still have life, one still has value." I tell them that they should hope for the future.

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.

It is war which brought this into the country. I think the most important thing for Congo is peace.

 

Women for Women International's work in the DRC is generously supported by players of People's Postcode Lottery.

 

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.

16 Days of Activism

From 25th November to 10th December (World Human Rights Day), join us for 16 Days of Activism, a worldwide annual campaign against Gender-Based Violence.

Add your voice to our global community working to end violence against women. Will you stand with us to say #ItsNotOK?