We can´t be sure that words will save, but we know full well that silence kills!
Stories of a Doctor working in places, where humanitarian issues make "our problems" in life a bit smaller.... It wound be easier to close my eyes, but I decided to open them and share with the world what I have lived.
Probably everybody knows that women are not treated as equal still in many parts of the world, probably you also know that, the more undeveloped the country is , more you see female discrimination… You also know that in every war, when some fight for land or money , women and children suffer the most…
It is quite impressive to see the difference between the roles of men and women in this part of the planet…. Many things of their way of living I haven’t understood….but many others shock you deeply and don’t take long to realize…. All the hard work is done by women, all the farming is done by women and of course, housekeeping, taking care of the children, etc….
That region was very hilly and it was the women that always carried the heavy loads up the hill and down the hill….while the men were carrying nothing…. These mountains were step as they come, and they would carry 40, 50, 60 kgs….who knows, on their back and still take a baby on their neck and walk for hours ….. their effort was huge….and it was the way it was…..their daily life …. My respect and admiration for African women is just beyond what you can imagine…after I saw what I saw…
But do you really know what woman go through? Have you any idea how their rights are violated? Do you imagine what they suffer physically and psychologically during times of war?
I will tell you a story….
….story of a woman … an African Woman…. a Congolese Woman…. That is just one life story in the middle of million others…..
She was already in the Hospital of Masisi, when I arrived there to start my mission… She was 39 years old, she was very quiet… always with a shy smile when we approached her…. Big and expressive eyes, beautiful and proud…. Like most of the other patients, no french, meaning no communication directly with me… but there was something in her look, her expression, her actions , that told me that she was a very wise and calm woman…. Like all the other women covered by colorful fabrics that give life to all these stories….
She had many bandages holding her right arm, and so I asked what happened to her… The local nurses started telling me the story…. :
“She was shot in her arm….”
“Why would one shoot a woman?”
“She was resisting ….”
“Did she escape?”
“She did at first, but then they went after her, shot her in the warm, grabbed her and raped her anyway…”
“The Congolese army!”
This was my first day at work in Congo…too much reality for a first day… She had a whole in her arm caused by the bullet of the Kalashnikov, that broke the Umerus (bone of the arm)….and probably she will never be able to use her right arm again, with the conditions that we had to treat her….. We took her to the operation room many, many times to clean the wound… and the healing was going well, but when you are missing 10 cms of the bone there is no way it will consolidate…. She was suffering a lot… And it was obvious that she hated to go to the operation room…. But I saw trust in her eyes…. Looking at us with hope, asking no questions, ….and I have no idea where she was getting this hope ….as we didn’t have much to offer her… She needed some sort of prosthesis to hold the weight of her arm so she could use it….and after a long burocratic struggle we were able to send her to an handicap program in Goma (the biggest city in the region)….and I want to believe that something was made for this innocent woman….
Stories like this where countless…. During the war, men get what they want with one simple method : The Kalashnikov ! Their food, money, ….and women as well of course…. The rebels, but much more often the Congolese Military rape their own women…. The ones that were suppose to protect their people are the ones who rape the women, steal the population and burn their villages…. Showing no regret…. You have your gun, you get what you need!
(Sorry for the reality of this picture, Its the first I have shown like this, but I thought it was important the understant the severity of this issues)
Congo , more specifically the region where I was , The Kivus, is by far the worst region of the planet in terms of sexual violence…. Some reports say that around 70% of the women of that region have been victims of sexual violence at least once in their lives….
Doctors Without Borders, created in that hospital a program for victims of sexual violence, offering these women, prevention of sexual diseases, contraception and psychological and medical support, ….. establishing bonds with many of the villages and communities all around, so these women could come to the hospital with secrecy of the true purpose….And every day many new victims came to that program….
Attempt of rape, raped, raped by groups, raped and shot, raped and killed….children, young girls, old woman…..whatever you can try to imagine…. And as one can imagine the pain that this women care inside will walk with them until the end of their days….. Many run in shame from their villages, many hide in silence with fear of rejection…..many are reject by their husbands, or even rejected by their family and communities…. There are reports of women who were used for sexual purposes during several days by groups, that when released put an end to their lives, choosing death over shame !!
Thousands of women, NOW, match this truthful description that you just read…
Why? Because of a war that nobody knows about…. But is very real….