In South Kivu (DR Congo), Eulalie Amani helps raped and humiliated women regain their dignity with the support of Mamas for Africa. Read her poignant testimony.
In South Kivu (East Congo), women and children are raped on a daily basis. Until recently, the perpetrators were mostly soldiers and armed gang members. Nowadays, however, more and more rapes occur within the family circle or village. As if decades of violence had seeped into the genes of the younger generations.
Eulalie, a young woman from the region, wanted to do something about this situation. She studied clinical psychology and now works for Mamas for Africa. Thanks to her psychological support, victims are given a new future.
Eulalie Amani, clinical psychologist
Psychological support for women victims of rape or gender-based violence, in the framework of Mamas for Africa in South Kivu (DR Congo).
Because the tragedy of women raped in Congo is still ignored and regarded as a minor problem. Eulalie felt it was her mission to provide not only medical but also psychological support to the women affected, in order to help them regain self-confidence and courage.
Since early 2019, Mamas for Africa has recorded no less than 150 cases of rape of women aged between 3 (yes, you read it correctly!) and 70 years, committed by boys from the neighbourhood, soldiers, armed gang members and militias. A daily reality for women in the Kivu region, which nobody seems to take into account. All this violence is part of Eulalie’s daily life and has only strengthened her motivation.
I was born on 20 November 1989 on the island of Idjwi, in the middle of Lake Kivu in East Congo. My parents had 8 children and I was their eldest daughter. My father was a teacher and my mother worked on the land. Although we were not the poorest of the village, we were certainly not well off. We had food and nothing more.
As a child I soon realized that schools were mainly attended by boys. The girls fetched water, helped with household chores or worked on the land with their mother. I was lucky that my father sent me to primary school.
Later on when I went to secondary school, I saw some of my schoolmates, who were barely 13 years old, getting pregnant! Just like that, sometimes even without understanding what was happening to them. We did not know anything about sex, except what boys, or worse, uncles or brothers, told us or did to us.
Later on when I went to secondary school, I saw some of my schoolmates, who were barely 13 years old, getting pregnant! Just like that, sometimes even without understanding what was happening to them.
I also noticed how pregnant girls were rejected by their own families. They lived on the streets and turned into begging prostitutes. I didn't understand that, but there was one thing I was convinced of: I wouldn't end up like my friends. I started asking my mother and father questions, which became more and more irritating to them, and suddenly my father decided: ‘You're old enough to get married now, you don’t go to school anymore. I need the dowry to let your brother study.’ That's how things were.
Luckily my school results were good and others convinced my father to let me study. My father changed, understood what I wanted. He did everything he could to let me study, he even went to work with only one shoe as all the money was spent on my studies. I wanted to become a doctor, but 7 years was too long, too expensive. Eventually I studied clinical psychology in Bukavu.
I quickly learned that you cannot solve all problems with medication. During my internship in hospitals, I talked to women who had suffered traumas. The cause of their psychological problems, and in the worst case of a psychosis, was often rape. And I immediately knew what I wanted: work in an organisation that would help raped women regain their dignity and resilience and offer them a future.
All this I found with Mamas for Africa. This organisation tries to provide not only medical but also psychological assistance to raped women. We are working with the hospital of Dr. Mukwege, the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2018. Women who have been raped or have a prolapse – descent of the uterus – undergo surgery free of charge in this hospital. I assist them with their reintegration after surgery.
Even after all these years, I sometimes find it difficult to hear about the brutal violence that is inflicted on women here. Just recently, I provided assistance to a young woman who had been kidnapped by rebels for six months. She was tied to a tree with her arm and one leg. Every day she was raped by the gang. One day she managed to escape and fled somewhat disoriented back to her village, where youngsters shouted at her: the madwoman!
Someone sent her on to Mamas for Africa, where I accompanied her for six months. I talked to her, supported her and helped her take new initiatives.
Today she has her own shop, a good relationship with her husband, everything worked out well for her and I am proud of that. I've done something useful for the neglected women here...