DRC_Photo Ryan Carter
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Claudine - DRC

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My name is Claudine

When I was 17, I met a young man on Sunday afternoon at Church. He was an orphan just like me and we loved each other. Ah love. I learned that love is a heart disease. We can’t help ourselves when it happens. That man was the only man I loved in my life. We had a good marriage and were fortunate to raise our children in a loving environment.

After a few years, he started drinking a lot. Things got out of hand when one day he came home in the evening and started yelling at me and accusing me of spinning negativity on him. He took the pan in which I was cooking beans outside and threw it. In our custom, this meant, “I no longer want this woman in my house.” He started beating me until I was bleeding everywhere.

Our neighbours took me to the hospital. When I arrived, the doctor said they couldn’t treat me until I explained how it happened. They thought that it must have been road bandits who beat me so severely. I had no choice but to succumb to the doctor’s pressure and tell them that it was my husband who did that to me.

It was the very first time I was beaten and the last time that I entered that house.

I was left with very little means when I went back to my family. I had to go work on other people’s farms to earn money to feed my children. It was very hard and I could only send the youngest two to school. This wasn’t the end of my difficulties. Despite leaving my abusive husband, this wasn't the last time I was beaten.

One day, I encountered a soldier on my way home. He said, “Give me money.” I told him that I didn’t have any money; I only had flour to feed my children. He said, “Give me money, or I will kill you!” At that time, I had no choice.

He started beating me, and then he turned his gun on me; I thought he was going to kill me. Then he started to rape me.

I woke up in the hospital. I later learned that I was pregnant and was infected with an STD. It was very hard to go back home and to deal with all that happened to me and my neighbour’s gossip after seeing me pregnant. Eventually, I miscarried and I spent every penny I had on my medical bill. As a matter of fact, I am still paying for it.

I think I may be able to forgive this one day, because I could have died but instead I was saved. I am sure others have also forgiven.

The women who were in my group and the trainers came to visit me, showed me love and care, and were my only comfort during those days.

We love each other in the class and when we are all there, we are very happy. We are like sisters.

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.

Programme participants in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Photo: Alison Wright

Our work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Women and girls suffer disproportionately from high rates of violence and extreme poverty during times of conflict. No where is this more true than in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has grappled with wars, civil strife, and multiple rebellions since 1996.