The Voice of America (VOA) is launching a new series this week, “Children of Rape,” that tells the story of children whose lives have been shattered by sexual violence in Democratic Republic of Congo. The series is part of “Congo Story: War, Women and Rape,” a joint project between VOA and Citizen Global, an innovative multimedia crowdsourcing platform.
In Democratic Republic of Congo, roughly 2 million people have been raped since fighting broke out in 1998. Among those victims are children – many under 10 years old. Warring factions in the region use child rape as a means of terrorizing the population.
Part One of “Children of Rape” tells the story of five-year-old Teresa who was abducted from her family and raped. Her mother told VOA that before the assault, her daughter could walk and play. Now most of her body is paralyzed. Teresa needs treatment by a specialist, but her family cannot afford one. “If a person has HIV, and he has sex with a little girl, he may believe he will be cured,” said Dr. Endanda Zawadi, who cares for Teresa. “It is also a way to humiliate the population.”
“Through our joint efforts with Citizen Global, we are promoting a global discussion of the tragedy of child rape using the social media sites Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube as well as radio and television,” said VOA Africa Division Director Gwen Dillard. “Rape is a horrific act, and it is becoming more and more common in eastern Congo.”
Part Two of the series examines abducted girls or so-called “bush wives,” and Part Three looks at mothers who have children from rape. Dr. Denis Mukwege of the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu in South Kivu Province discussed the issue of child rape during an interview last month with VOA’s French Service. He told the service’s Lamia Gritli that, “There is also this whole issue of children born of rape. This phenomenon has been going on for more than ten years, and so now we are seeing children 10 or 11 years of age, and no one is taking care of them.”
The joint VOA/Citizen Global project offers a platform for individuals to take part in a global discussion, posting their own comments and videos alongside VOA reports from Washington and eastern Congo. Reporters working with VOA have been contributing to the project from Goma and Bukavu in eastern Congo, where they have been visiting villages and providing the stories that are being posted on the new website. VOA has also trained local journalists who are interested in reporting on the issue of sexual violence in Congo.
The series will be carried on VOA’s television program In Focus and on radio broadcasts. More information about Congo Story can be found at: voacongostory.com, voacongostory.wordpress.com, facebook.com/voacongostory, twitter.com/voacongostory, and youtube.com/voacongostory.