Ironically, the next group of people we were interviewing were several young girls all of whom had been raped and fled their village within the past month. They had previously received services through COPERMA and had been placed into foster families in the local community. Today was a chance to check on them and see how they were doing. Up until this meeting I do not think I had emotionally processed anything that I was being exposed to in the Congo. But this testimony was different. There were these incredibly sweet, innocent, young, and traumatized girls recounting their stories of being raped by multiple soldiers when their communities were attacked. My instinct was to hug them, but in Congolese culture that was not appropriate. Angered, horrified, and moved I sat there taping and shooting as these girls divulged the specifics of the attacks and how they were now doing. Since I do not speak Kinandie, I peered over Amy’s shoulder as she took notes in English. As I listened to a particularly enduring 14 year old who had been raped along with her two sisters something in me snapped. She continued to express her worry for her family and her village. Her sisters had fled in different directions and she was worried about them. The story was so intense I had to remind myself it was real. I began to wonder if we could figure out a way to get these girls guns to protect themselves. What is their other option? Just wait and get raped again?
During a pause in the conversation, I asked Amy if I could pose a question. “Is there is anything you need that could help you protect yourself?” I asked the girls. There was a brief pause while the translator went from French to Kinandie and back. “Yes”, one girl replied, “a sewing machine”.
Well that was defiantly not the answer I was expecting, but OK. I get it. Mostly, the girls were looking for something to keep them busy to keep their minds off of the trauma. They were also looking for a way to become self-sufficient.
Here I had been thinking about running guns and the girls were thinking to the future. Again amazed by their perseverance, Amy made a note to look into getting a few sewing machines.