UpFront Ottawa is happy to present this guest post by Tori Roberts:
The MATCH International Women’s Fund, Nobel Women’s Initiative and School of Photographic Arts: Ottawa partner to shed light on the resiliency of survivors of sexual violence in conflict
There are places in the world where it is more dangerous to be a woman in conflict than a soldier. One of those places is eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Nestled among lush green hills in central Africa, a serene landscape masks the horrors that have haunted the people of eastern DRC for years. Ongoing conflict and insecurity in the region has ravaged communities and devastated families. Throughout the war, sexual violence has been used as a tactic to oppress and marginalize women. The resulting physical and emotional trauma restricts the freedom of women and girls, while stigma tears at the fabric of their families and communities.
But a movement of courageous and resilient women are rising up as activists, survivors, visionaries and leaders. Beauty in the Middle: Women of Congo Speak Out presents the story of the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and the grassroots women’s activists who have mobilized against incredible odds to end rape, seek justice, and establish lasting peace in their country.
In February of 2014, Ottawa-based organization, the Nobel Women’s Initiative led a delegation of Nobel Peace Laureates, activists and journalists to Democratic Republic of Congo to meet women working to bring sustainable peace to the region and end the scourge of sexual violence. Although a peace agreement was signed in 2002, rebel groups, foreign militias and the Congolese army continue to instil fear in the civilians of North and South Kivu. Despite the volatility, women-led movements have emerged, employing innovative strategies to advocate for protection and justice.
Among the women they met in DRC is the Fond pour les Femmes Congolaises (FFC), a women’s fund that supports grassroots women’s rights organizations to promote and defend the rights of women and girls. Founded and led by fearless activist Julienne Lusenge, the FFC has funded more than 60 projects from over 35 organizations that focus on eliminating sexual violence, delivering empowerment programming for women and girls and providing public health education about HIV/AIDS.
On January 22, 2015, Julienne Lusenge will be bringing a world-acclaimed photo exhibit, Beauty in the Middle: Women of Congo Speak Out, to the SAW Gallery Ottawa. The exhibit, which debuted in London at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in June 2014, features the photography of award-winning New York Times photojournalist Peter Muller, sharing the heartbreaking and inspiring stories of women affected by the ongoing conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo.
As the centrepiece of School of Photographic Arts: Ottawa’s 2015 Photography Symposium, “The Shrinking World of Photography”, The MATCH International Women’s Fund, the Nobel Women’s Initiative and SPAO are hosting a vernissage at SAW Gallery on Thursday, January 22nd to generate support for the Fond pour les Femmes Congolaises, channelling 100% of funds raised from the exhibit directly to the FFC to provide critical funding to grassroots organizations working to advance the rights of women and girls in Democratic Republic of Congo.
This holiday season, share the gift of art and activism with your loved ones. Spend an evening being captivated by the stories of women in Congo and inspired by their journey toward peace and justice at the Beauty in the Middle: Women of Congo Speak Out launch on January 22nd.
To learn more about the event or purchase tickets, please visit: http://matchinternational.org/events-campaigns/
Tori Roberts is a student in the Carleton University School of Social work and has worked alongside both the Nobel Women’s Initiative and The MATCH International Women’s Fund.
Photo credit © The Nobel Women’s Initiative