The world's worst place to be a woman?
Welcome to eastern Congo – often described as the ‘most dangerous place in the world to be a woman’ because of the horrific level of rape and sexual violence that continues to blight the region.
Over 200,000 women and girls have reported being raped in Congo, but the true figure is much higher. The stats tell the scale but not the story.
17 year old Esther was kidnapped from near her home by a group of soldiers and held in their bush camps for a fortnight. Whilst there she was raped and became pregnant. She managed to escape but was ambushed and raped again when she was four months pregnant. This attack left her almost dead – lying in a ditch for four days until a woman found her and took her to hospital. She stayed there until she gave birth to her baby.
When she left hospital she had nowhere to go and no one to turn to...
Luckily for Esther, there’s a little corner of Congo that’s a beacon of humanity at its best.
She’s living in the safety of a hostel in Goma, funded by War Child. It’s a sanctuary for girls aged 12-18 - most of whom have been the victim of sexual violence and have babies of their own. There she will get the counselling and education that can help her put her life back together.
Zoom back out to the scale of the problem and it’s easy to think that this is just a drop in the ocean. But try telling that to Esther. Our reach is small, but it does some amazing things for children in some of the most desperate circumstances imaginable.
We’re also part of the campaigns and coalitions like Congo Now that are trying to get the problem recognised and addressed by the international community. A signature and a pledge of support may not seem like much but they mean a great deal for women whose voices are too-often ignored.