On Tuesday morning Enough team members met with Vital Voices’ Fern Holland Award-Winner Chouchou Namegabe Nabintu. A passionate young journalist from the South Kivu province, Chouchou has been a brave and pioneering voice for survivors of sexual violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo through radio broadcasts. Chouchou founded South Kivu’s Association of Women Journalists (Association des Femmes des Médias du Sud Kivu or AFEM) in 2003, which works to increase women’s representation in the media, mentors female journalists, and advocates for women’s rights, particularly in rural communities, in eastern DRC.
Chouchou shared her experiences collecting stories from rape survivors and then revealing them for the first time over the radio. Chouchou’s discussion of sex and rape on the radio was perceived as shocking and even scandalous at the time. In spite of the obstacles she faced, including attempted arrests, Chouchou has continued to fight vehemently to give women the public space to share what happened to them. In hearing these stories, she said, other women have been inspired to share their own experiences. Chouchou believes that radio is playing a major role in ending the silence surrounding sexual violence in Congo.
An end to the culture of impunity surrounding sexual violence in the Congo is one of Chouchou’s main objectives in her work. She emphasized that sexual violence not only traumatizes the victim; it damages and undermines the entire community. Unless the community is involved in the public dialogue and there is zero tolerance of sexual violence, the problem will persist.
Chouchou also echoed Enough’s policy recommendations for achieving a sustainable peace in eastern Congo: look for pragmatic ways to invest in peace; remove the destabilizing FDLR from the region; and get serious about ending the conflict and sexual violence through enhanced civilian protection and accountability for perpetrators.
Talking with Chouchou was truly inspiring. It is because of her courage and the countless Congolese women like her that there will be peace in eastern Congo one day. You can join Chouchou in being a voice for the voiceless by joining the Congo Challenge today.
Photo courtesy of Vital Voices.