Posted on February 18, 2010 by Brooke Shelby Biggs
Samantha Roddick has recently returned from a trip to the Congo where she was meeting women who had been raped and tortured. Below is Samís account of why she is campaigning and supporting these women.
Last year I was invited to the House of Lords to hear a talk being given by Eve Ensler, playwright, performer, feminist and activist, on the needs of women and girls in Congo who are being raped and tortured.
The moment that Eve began speaking life stopped and the doors to my heart opened Ė I was overcome with the feeling of such extraordinary pain. Eve had placed a veil over my present existence and was filling me with the most horrific reality. I could feel the fire of my being as a woman ignite Ė like a sleeping beauty Ė feminism woke within me like an unstoppable force.
Eve recounted the stories of women that made the tears flow down my face Ė we heard the facts, the truth and the horrendous accounts of unthinkable violence. And what was this violence for? All for economic gain and all corporate shame.
So I made a pledge there and then, that I would get involved and raise greater awareness of what is going on in the Congo. Simply talking about what Iíd learnt wasnít enough, I felt that after hearing Eve talk it was my duty as an empowered woman living in this free society to stand up next to these women and say no this is universally unacceptable. So I decided to travel to the Congo to meet the women, talk to the NGOs and see what is going on for myself.
To be honest, I feel like I am still digesting my trip. I have had nightmares since returning from the Congo. I wonít give you the facts because I might lose your interest, but let me share with you one experience from my trip:
I met a woman who was softly spoken and who looked at the ground when she told her story. She cried as she told me that she was a businesswoman who used to buy and sell goods, when one day she was ransacked by the army - they demanded her chequebook and they took all her money and looted her house. She then told me, as if that wasnít enough, that the men proceeded to attack her husband and they killed him slowly - in front of her! They dismembered him, bit by bit, he was still alive throughout most of the torture. They first cut off his penis and chucked this body part across the room, they then continued in this way with other parts of his body, and all the time this woman was forced to watch them mutilating her husband. They continued on slicing open his stomach - it wasnít until they cut through his heart that he died.
The woman was then forced to crawl and collect the pieces of flesh and bring them to the centre of the room. The men then asked her if she had ever chewed gum. She replied that she was terrified and didnít know what they meant - but said yes - they then laughed and forced her to eat cut up bits of her husbandís penis. They then gang raped her on her husbandís dead body. She said it wasnít until she heard her daughters being raped that she passed out.
This woman has since recovered but she said there isnít a day that goes past when she doesnít think about killing herself. She stays alive because she knows it is her duty to help other women like her. This remarkable woman has walked for two days into conflict zones and carried raped women on her back. She has housed up to 500 women and helped up to 6000.
During my trip I also visited some remarkable projects created and inspired by these women - small economic initiatives - brilliant projects that I will be supporting. However what I am most interested in is building and assisting campaigns that are already working to help these women. I am still researching - talking to Oxfam, Amnesty and V-Day - so watch this space and get in touch if you want to get involved
When I went to the Congo - I never realised what the world would look like without law and without corporations being accountable, but now I know the horrific truth - if corporations ruled the world it would be the Congo.
What has become clear to me through going to the Congo is violence towards women and using them as a target within warfare is on the increase and as a global community we have to make a stand or else the aftermath will be devastation. This behaviour can not be permitted to spread - we have to stop it in the same way genocide has to be halted.