Legacy of Sexual Violence in the Congo is Focus of Two-day Event, Feb 27 and 28

Posted on: February 23, 2014 Topics: Global Health

Sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — first thought to be the bitter residue of wars that wracked the country for most of the past two decades — has spread into an epidemic of sexual abuse of children, gang rape, forced incest and other horrific crimes.

In conflict-torn areas of the eastern DRC, as many as 40 percent of women and girls may have been raped, with most victims under age 18. Nearly 50 women are raped every hour, according to estimates from researchers. A 2008 report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) observed the disturbing spread of sexual violence from war zones into towns and villages throughout the country.

Dr. Margaret Agama, the country’s UNFPA representative when the report was released, called sexual violence in the DRC a “plague” that was initially used as a weapon. In the aftermath of war, Agama said, “sexual violence is unfortunately not only perpetrated by armed factions but also by ordinary people occupying positions of authority, neighbors, friends and family members.”

To help shine a light on these crimes and their causes, the Boston University Program on Crisis Response and Reporting, in partnership with the Washington D.C.-based Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, will present a two-day event exploring gender violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

On Thursday, February 27, the program will screen the film Seeds of Hope, which chronicles a woman’s dogged fight to help DRC rape victims rebuild their lives and regain a sense of empowerment. Filmmaker Fiona Lloyd-Davies will be present at the screening n the Charles River Campus and will participate in a post-film discussion.

On Friday, February 28, the event shifts to the Medical Campus for a panel discussion about the challenges to accurate, nuanced reporting about the DRC and its myriad problems, many of which extend beyond sexual violence. The panel will include a range of views from journalists, public health experts, artists, and activists.

Both events are free and open to all. Please RSVP for one or both events. Students interested in learning more about the 2014 Pulitzer Fellowship opportunity are strongly encouraged to attend.

The Boston University Program on Crisis Response and Reporting is a joint effort by journalists and global health specialists to improve mutual understanding and to promote collaborative global health story telling. The partnership combines the expertise of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the BU College of Communication, BU School of Public Health, and BU Center for Global Health & Development.


In this scene from 'Seeds of Hope" survivors of sexual violence reclaim their lives by helping prepare fields for planting.

In this scene from ‘Seeds of Hope” survivors of sexual violence reclaim their lives by helping prepare fields for planting.

Global Health Reporting: Telling the Whole Story of Gender Violence in Democratic Republic of Congo

“Seeds of Hope” Film Screening – Thursday, February 27

Boston University College of Communications
640 Commonwealth Ave, Room 209
5:30 – 7:30 pm

Panel Discussion – Friday, February 28

Boston University School of Public Health
670 Albany Street Ave, First Floor Auditorium
8:30 – 1:00 pm (Breakfast from 8:30 – 9:00. Panel discussion begins at 9:00 am)

Please RSVP for each event.

Program panelists:

Fiona Lloyd-Davies is an award-winning filmmaker and photojournalist who’s been making films and taking pictures about human rights issues in areas of conflict since 1992. Her 2000 film about honor killing, License to Kill for BBC2, brought a change in the law in Pakistan and was awarded a Royal Television Society award for Best International Journalism. She was awarded a second RTS award in 2005 with Salam Pax, the Baghdad Blogger, for the series of films they made for the BBC’s flagship current affairs program Newsnight. Her work combines journalism with a strong visual style that she learned as a graduate of the Royal College of Art. Her work has been broadcast on the BBC, Channel 4, ITN and Al Jazeera English and her photography work has been published in The Guardian, The Observer Magazine, The Glasgow Herald Magazine and The Irish Times. Her on-going reporting from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo focuses on the sexual violence against the civilian population.

Mama Jeanne Kasongo L.Ngondo became a humanitarian and an activist by accident. A Congolese entrepreneur who holds a master’s degree in Political Science from IPSL and ran several businesses in the capital city of Kinshasa, Jeanne began to open her home and her heart to the orphaned street children in her neighborhood, providing them with food, shelter, and love while enrolling them in school and paying for their tuition. These children called her Maman Jeanne – meaning “Mother” in French – and the name stuck. With the onset of the war in 1997, Kinshasa saw an influx of internally displaced persons fleeing from conflict in the east – these included orphans, escaped child soldiers, and victims of sexual violence. Unable to turn these women and children away, Maman Jeanne used profits from her businesses to support more and more vulnerable people. In 2000, she founded Shalupe Foundation as an official non-profit organization through which to channel her important work. Maman Jeanne now lives in Boston, where she runs Shalupe Foundation and raises awareness of the crisis in the Congo at the international level. She has spoken at numerous events in Boston, Washington, DC, and at the United Nations in New York, and was named an Ambassador for Peace by the Universal Peace Federation.

Dr. Susan Bartels is a board-certified emergency medicine physician. She completed a two-year fellowship in International Emergency Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and graduated from the Harvard School of Public Health with a Masters of Public Health degree. Dr. Bartels is now an attending physician at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, an Assistant Professor at the Harvard Medical School, and a Visiting Scientist at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Bartels’ current international work is focused on sexual violence and women’s health, with a particular emphasis on rape as a weapon of war. She has led several research studies in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo investigating patterns of sexual violence as well as outcomes of sexual violence related pregnancies.

Sekombi Katondolo is the founder of Mutaani, eastern Congo’s only youth-led media company. Based in Goma, Mutaani Radio is the Democratic Republic of Congo’s fastest growing radio station, and Mutaani Label is growing the careers of dozens of young artists from across Africa’s Great Lakes Region. At 31, Sekombi is already an accomplished dancer, filmmaker, choreographer, and journalist. He believes in the power of Congolese people telling their own stories – to each other, and to the outside world. Katondolo’s work includes comprehensive coverage of DRC’s elections in November of 2011. In partnership with IDEO and Falling Whistles, Mutaani built a network of hundreds of young citizen journalists and equipped them with an innovative SMS-to-radio election monitoring system that channeled thousands of real-time reports on the voting process to radio listeners across eastern Congo and observers on the internet.