• Nina Strochlic/The Daily Beast

    Revving Up

    Congo’s Badass Women Mechanics

    Girls in the devastated city of Goma, “the rape capital of the world,” are breaking stereotypes to find work—and independence—as car mechanics and carpenters.

    In a large auto body shop off a dusty alley in the Democratic Republic of Congo, two teenage girls climb behind a stripped-down truck to take a break under a shady cluster of trees. A few moments before, 16-year-old Kubuya Mushingano, clad in a blue mechanic’s uniform, and 17-year-old Dorcas Lukonge, her hair wrapped in a scarf, were, respectively, wielding a circular saw and power drill.

    Each day, these two young trainees saw, drill and weld—making doors and windows for cars at the auto yard, a dirt enclosure littered with scrap wood and metal.

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  • An IRC-supported women’s group in South Kivu, Congo that helps vulnerable women, including sexual violence survivors, with economic and psychosocial assistance. (Peter Biro/International Rescue Committee)

    Support System

    Bringing Light to the Heart of Darkness

    Group therapy for sexual-assault survivors in Congo holds promise for other war-torn areas.

    With the Democratic Republic of Congo plagued by nearly 25 years of conflict and civil war, researchers are hoping to win a different type of battle: for mental health and against mental illness.

    Group therapy has significantly helped female survivors of sexual violence deal with depression and posttraumatic-stress disorder in the DRC, according to a groundbreaking study by the International Rescue Committee, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Washington. “As far as we know, it’s the first such rigorous study of mental-health intervention for sexual violence in lower-income and conflict-affected areas,” said Jeannine Annan, IRC’s director of research and evaluation and a coauthor of the study.

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  • Eve, Christine, and Mama Bachu, 2012. (Paula Allen for V-Day)

    Life Force

    At Home in Her Body, At Last

    Eve Ensler’s lyrical, gritty new memoir, ‘In the Body of the World,’ tackles childhood, Congo, and the Big C—uterine cancer.

    A mother’s body against a child’s body makes a place. It says you are here. Without this body against your body there is no place. I envy people who miss their mother. Or miss a place or know something called home. The absence of a body against my body created a gap, a hole, a hunger. This hunger determined my life.

    I have been exiled from my body. I was ejected at a very young age and I got lost. I did not have a baby. I have been afraid of trees. I have felt the Earth as my enemy. I did not live in the forests. I lived in the concrete city where I could not see the sky or sunset or stars. I moved at the pace of engines and it was faster than my own breath. I became a stranger to myself and to the rhythms of the Earth. I aggrandized my alien identity and wore black and felt superior. My body was a burden. I saw it as something that unfortunately had to be maintained. I had little patience for its needs.

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  • AFP/GETTY IMAGES

    Justice

    Congo Arrests Officers In Mass Rape Case

    Government announces that a dozen senior army members have been detained in connection with reports of raping, looting and killing near Goma last November.

    Twelve senior officers in the army of the Democratic Republic of Congo have been arrested and charged with responsibility for mass rapes committed in the region last November, according to a report by the Associated Press. The arrests come after weeks of pressure from the United Nations, which threatened to suspend its peacekeepers’ cooperation with the Congolese army units suspected to committing the rapes, which are considered a crime against humanity and a war crime under international law.

    According to the AP, the rapes occurred near the city of Goma, in eastern Congo, where M23 rebels had routed the army and seized control of the provincial capital. As the army retreated, “commanders lost control of their troops, or were unwilling to impose discipline over their men who regrouped some 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Goma in Minova.” For several days, the army units rape, killed, and looted, apparently in revenge for their defeat. Human Rights Watch says an estimated 126 women were raped, but the Congolese government says the number is likely to be even higher. The AP notes: “Congo has a track record of letting crimes of sexual violence go unpunished, in particular when committed by the military.”

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  • AFP

    Seeking Justice

    Congo Soldier Admits To Mass Rape

    Prosecutors pledge to punish those involved.

    Last November, after a chaotic retreat from a battle with rebel fighters in Goma, thousands of Congolese soldiers arrived in Minova and began raping, murdering, and pillaging in local communities. "Twenty-five of us gathered together and said we should rape 10 women each, and we did it," a young Congolese soldier told The Guardian. "I've raped 53 women. And children of five or six years old." After the rampage, hundreds of rape victims sought out medical and emotional help, but an untold number never came forward to talk about the trauma. Now, the army is pledging to take action against the crimes of these units, promising to arrest soldiers and commanding officers. "This is where military justice is of the utmost importance. We have not hesitated to put in place the processes to arrest the soldiers who have raped and pillaged the civilian population in Minova," says Mokuta Amdondo, the military prosecutor in the region. But so far, only three arrests have been made. And outside of town, the head of a victim relief center laments that these promises rarely end with justice. "The government says it will arrest these soldiers," she says. "They may arrest some, but then later they will just set them free again."

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  • A still from Tribeca Film's War Witch. (Item 7)

    Invisible Children

    The Child Soldiers of ‘War Witch’

    ‘War Witch’ director Kim Nguyen talks to Jean Trinh about filming his movie in Congo, albinos, drugs, and more.

    At the Academy Awards this year, a smiling 16-year-old Rachel Mwanza walked down the red carpet in a colorful Ankara dress. Just days before, the Congolese star of War Witch—one of the five films nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and hitting select theaters today—was granted a visa to attend the awards show. In a formative year for the teen, she went from living alone on the streets in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to attending the Berlin and Tribeca film festivals over the past year—in much part due to Kim Nguyen and his film crew.

    Nguyen, 38, the Canadian-born and half-Vietnamese director and screenwriter of the highly-acclaimed War Witch, was anxious on the red carpet. “It’s the Oscars and you’re nerve-racked,” Nguyen told The Daily Beast. “I didn’t know how it would turn out.”

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