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V-Day Celebrates the Opening of City of Joy

On Friday, February 4th, the opening of the City of Joy brought thousands of Congolese women and men, local women's groups and grassroots activists, regional dignitaries including South Kivu Governor Marcellin Cishambo Ruhoya, V-Day Congo Director/Director of City of Joy Christine Schuler Deschryver, Panzi Hospital's Dr. Denis Mukwege, City of Joy construction crew members, and residents and staff of City of Joy together with national and international activists, politicians and supporters, including V-Day Founder Eve Ensler, UN Messenger of Peace and V-Day supporter Charlize Theron, U.S. Ambassador on Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer, U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, UN Special Envoy Margot Wallström, UNICEF DRC Representative a.i. Philippe Heffinck, V-Day Board Members Rosario Dawson, Carole Black, Pat Mitchell, Emily Scott Pottruck, Amy Rao, and Susan Celia Swan (V-Day's Managing Director), V-Day Supporters Dylan McDermott, Naomi Klein, and Thandie Newton, Congolese Ambassador to the U.S. Faida Mitifu, AIDS Free World Co-Founder Stephen Lewis, and V-Day staff including Managing Director - Campaigns & Development Cecile Lipworth, Programs & Development Director Purva Panday Cullman, Europe Director Karin Heisecke, and Director of Operations Anthony Montentieri. During the ceremony, Christine Schuler Deschryver was presented with the inaugural "Turning Pain To Power" award.

This incredible and diverse celebration marks the next chapter in V-Day's ongoing global campaign, STOP RAPING OUR GREATEST RESOURCE: Power to the Women and Girls of the DRC, and commences the creation of a sustainable path towards the health and empowerment of Congolese women, providing a powerful new platform to turn their pain to power, and become leaders who will steer Eastern Congo's destiny towards peace.

Starting with the first group, City of Joy will provide up to 180 Congolese women a year with an opportunity to benefit from group therapy; self-defense training; comprehensive sexuality education (covering HIV/AIDS, family planning); economic empowerment; storytelling; dance; theater; ecology and horticulture. Created from their vision, Congolese women will run, operate, and direct City of Joy themselves.

For the last three years, you, our V-Day activists around the world, have taken this issue of violence against women and girls in DRC to your friends, family, neighbors, and communities, raising international awareness and over one million dollars for the STOP RAPING OUR GREATEST RESOURCE campaign and the City of Joy. Through the Congo Spotlight Campaign alone, V-Day organizers around the world came together to raise over $500,000 for City of Joy, with thousands more women, men, girls, and boys showing support by joining V-Day's V-Wall for Congo and letting the women and girls of DRC know that they are not forgotten. It is through your donations, your time, your energy, and your commitment to end the violence that has lead us to this momentous occasion, and so we share this great Vagina Victory with you!

Photojournalist Paula Allen, who has been documenting V-Day's Congo work for three years, joined us in Bukavu. VIEW a selection of images from the opening.

Please keep checking vday.org over the next few weeks as we post more about this opening celebration, including more photos and video shot over the opening weekend.

Thank you all from all of us at V-Day!

READ Press Release >

VIEW City of Joy Opening Ceremony Photo Gallery >

DONATE >

CITY OF JOY in The New York Times: "Fighting Congo's Ills With Education and an Army of Women"

Since V-Day started the STOP RAPING OUR GREATEST RESOURCE campaign, The New York Times' East Africa bureau chief Jeffrey Gettleman has covered the campaign and building of the movement on the ground and the City of Joy. Mr. Gettleman was on hand to witness the opening celebration of City of Joy, and published this piece in The New York Times on Sunday, February 6th, 2011:

BUKAVU, Democratic Republic of Congo -- Eve Ensler has an audacious plan. The playwright Eve Ensler, center, danced with Congolese women who helped build City of Joy.

For years, diplomats, aid workers, academics and government officials here have been vexed almost to the point of paralysis about how to attack this country's staggering problem of sexual violence, in which hundreds of thousands of women have been raped, many quite sadistically, by the various armed groups who haunt the hills of eastern Congo.

Sending in more troops has compounded the problem. United Nations peacekeepers have failed to stop it. Would reforming the Congolese military work? Building up the Congolese state? Pushing harder to regulate so-called conflict minerals to starve the rebels of an income?

For Ms. Ensler, the feminist playwright who wrote "The Vagina Monologues" and who has worked closely with Congolese women, the answer was simple.

"You build an army of women," she said. "And when you have enough women in power, they take over the government and theymake different decisions. You'll see. They'll say 'Uh-uh, we're not taking this any longer,' and they'll put an end to this rape problem fast."

CONTINUE reading >

It's Not Too Late: This Valentine's Day, Show Your Love, Support The Movement

This Valentine's Day, show your love for that special person in your life by supporting the global movement to end violence against women and girls. Make a donation to V-Day on behalf of your loved ones and V-Day will send a specially designed 2011 Valentine's Day V-Card letting them know of their unique gift in their honor.

The V-Gift will be used to address the most critical issues of violence against women and girls around the world.

SEND a V-Card >

ATTEND A 2011 V-Day Event Near You!

From February 1 - April 30, over 1,500 colleges and communities all over the word will host V-Day benefit events raising funds and awareness to end violence against women and girls. Events include Eve Ensler's ground breaking play The Vagina Monologues, readings of V-Day's anthology A Memory, Monologue, A Rant, and a Prayer and Any One of Us: Words from Prison, documentary film screenings of V-Day: Until The Violence Stops and What I Want My Words To Do To You, Haiti and Congo teach-ins and house parties, and V-Men Workshops.

Find an event near you and help support the movement to end violence against women and girls in your community!

FIND An Event >

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