Women suffer under the brunt of warfare in the most horrific forms- the worst of the offences perpetrated against women being Gender-based violence. Time and again, the world has showed us how a war provides the most ideal climate for gender-based violence to thrive.
In the chaotic aftermath of the Rwandan civil war, refugees fled to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). A massive approximation of 100,000 of the Interahamwe, a militia partially responsible for the Rwandan genocide, crossed the border to avoid prosecution for their crimes against humanity. Thousands of women who have been raped and mutilated in the DRC can attest that the momentum to kill and maim is still in full swing despite a peace agreement signed in 2003.
The Women in War Zones project has a very intriguing story behind its creation. Women in War Zones started off as a film project. Scott, his sister Melanie, and heterosexual life-partner: Brad, travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006 to film a documentary that would unmask the horrific truth about the rape crisis in the DRC. The film highlighted the stories of two young women who had been raped and were being treated at Panzi Hospital – Helene Wamuzila and Bijoux.
Helene and Bijoux were extremely inspirational women, with their infectious zeal and exemplary strength of character. Tragically, Helene passed away shortly after the release of the film. In beautifully guided way, Helene’s story and her untimely death was the impetus for the Women in War Zones movement – one that would stand up for the protection and empowerment of women in conflict-areas around the world, and we have added her name to our pilot field project in the DRC: the Wamu Center.
Today, there are plenty of women in Congo who have benefitted from the empowering tool of education. But they wear the scars of their past, scars of wounds so horrible, so traumatic, that the world would be sinning to turn a deaf ear to them.