EVE ENSLER has the charity to fix it.

Playwright says The Atrocities Committed Against Women
 and Girls in the Congo Defy Imagination!

By Marianne Schnall, The Women's Media Center

Behind the headlines heralding potentially positive developments in the
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), women and girls continue to be at
risk. Media outlets report the arrest of rebel leader General Laurent
Nkunda and the possibility of peace openings, but the eastern region
where women and girls have been savagely raped and mutilated is

With all the bad news facing the world right now, you might prefer not
knowing the horrific details of these women's stories. "Yes,
its difficult to hear about,"; says playwright/activist Eve
Ensler, "but that doesnt mean you shouldn't hear them."

It is precisely because Ensler feels not enough people are aware of the
atrocities taking place in the Congo that she, and her anti-violence
against women organization V-Day, are going on the road this month, in a
five-city U.S. tour featuring her in conversation with Dr. Denis
Mukwege, a heroic gynecologist and the director of Panzi Hospital in
eastern Congo who treats, performs surgeries and offers counseling to
the women there. Together Mukwege and Ensler will expose the extreme
cases of violence against women in the DRC -- to date an estimated
400,000 women and girls have been raped -- and relay the stories of
survivors who are coming together and breaking the silence.

The disturbing stories that have come out of the Congo defy imagination:
women and young girls being raped by militia men in front of their
families; rape victims ranging from as young as six months to as old as
83 years; women and girls faced with unwanted pregnancies and raped
intentionally by men known to have AIDS. There is also a devastating
epidemic of women and girls whose vaginas and reproductive organs have
been completely destroyed from being violated with guns, bottles and
sticks, often resulting in a condition called fistula, a rupture that
results in the uncontrollable leakage of urine and feces. The
traumatized rape victims are then further stigmatized and ostracized by
their families and communities. Says Mukwege, awarded the UN Human
Rights Prize in December 2008 for his humanitarian work,
“attacking women, the bearer of life, with this level of terror, I
believe it has nothing to do with sexual desire. I think it’s
about destabilizing society, trying to destroy society and bring about
its complete destruction.”

Ensler is hoping to help end the terror through what she sees as the
necessary first step, creating awareness. "People have to get
educated about what is going on."  The idea for the conversational
format of the tour came from Enslers experience two years ago
when she interviewed the doctor at the request of OCHA, a UN agency.
Famous for her award-winning The Vagina Monologues; which
began as a play about women and their bodies and ultimately spawned her
anti-violence movement V-Day, Ensler has always believed in the power of
conversation to illuminate our understanding of important issues.
Unless people hear the details and specificities of things, they
don't get moved to action. And when you hear Dr. Mukwege, and you
see a man who has been on the frontlines for twelve years, sewing up
womens vaginas as fast as these militias are ripping them apart
-- and still having that degree of dignity, and that degree of
steadfastness in the face of all this -- then you have to join the cause
and do something"

The Turning Pain to Power Tour; -- beginning February 11th
in New York City before moving to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta
and Washington D.C. -- supports a joint V-Day and UNICEF campaign to
expose the devastating impact of rape on Congolese women's health, their
families and their communities. The organizations call for specific
measures to end impunity for perpetrators and to economically and
socially empower women and girls so they can lead in the prevention of
sexual violence and in the rebuilding of a country devastated by

The tour will also raise needed funds for the Panzi Hospital and to
build and open the City of Joy, a center where survivors will be
provided with support to heal and training to develop their leadership
and life skills. Says Ensler, "We are supporting women in the DRC
who are creating a minor, soon to be a major, revolution. My experience
is that in places where women have suffered enormous violence or
witnessed it, there is always a group of women who rather than getting
AK-47s or machetes or escalating the violence or doing themselves in,
actually grieve it and feel it and pass through it and as a result, they
become the strongest women. They become the people who shift the

Ensler has borne witness to many horrifying forms of violence against
women in over ten years of working with V-Day around the globe, yet
nothing compares to what is now taking place in the Congo. On the
one hand these are the worst atrocities I've seen anywhere in the
world; the sexual violence, the torture, the number of women being
violated, the complete impunity, an indifferent international community,
an ineffective UN, a failed Congolese government; She then adds,
“On the other hand, you have some of the fiercest, most devoted,
clever, powerful women I have met anywhere in the world. And wonderful
men who are really ready to galvanize and create change. With the
support of the world community, particularly women, we will create a
movement which will generate the political will and the necessary
resources for change.

Ensler says that while there has been growing media coverage of the war
in the Congo, she hopes the tour will put additional focus on the fact
that women are being used as weapons of war. We still live in a
world where femicide is taken for granted, where the raping of women,
the destruction of women, is a given. Not extraordinary. And part of
what we want this tour to be about is to say that this is not ordinary
and is unacceptable." In a recent interview with the National
Post, Mukwege observed, "the traditional battlefield has changed. It is
no longer war on the ground, but it is war on women's bodies. It is
… the psycho-social destruction of a whole community in which the
women are humiliated." Ensler sees wide implications to accepting these
tactics. “When we allow this many women to be raped, when we allow
this many women to be destroyed, we are basically giving license to that
happening, not just in the Congo, but in Africa and throughout the
world. If we can stop the violence towards women in the Congo  it
could be a template that we apply to other conflict zones."

I spoke to Ensler on Martin Luther King Day. She was in Washington for a
rally the day before in support of peace in the DRC, as well as to speak
at the first ever Inaugural Peace Ball on Inauguration Day, and I asked
her what message she would most want to deliver to President Barack
Obama. "The thing I would say is that ending violence against
women is as essential as ending global warming. You cannot think of over
half the world's population, that one out of three of them are
being beaten and raped, and not think that the greatest resource on the
planet is being degraded. And my dream is that in ten years this issue
will be so front and center that it will be undeniable, and that it will
change. When I asked her if she feels hopeful that Obama's
election marks a new paradigm shift, she became reflective. I
feel hopeful that the energy that Barack Obama brings to the White House
can actually begin to formulate a real left in this country, a real
social, progressive movement. A door has been opened, but it is up to us
to get our whole body through that door. She added, I live
constantly in the center of two opposite thoughts: the world is ending,
the world is about to be born. I am fighting for the latter.