Overcoming Violence

Stories of Gender Based Violence

Jeanine Cemanabo


Jeanine Cemanabo

The abuse happened when I was 29 year old, tells Janine Cemanabo. Now she is 35 year old, and works with a campaign directed towards men.

Six years ago Jeanine was married and had five children, the youngest was one year old, the oldest ten. One night the nightmare occurred that should change her life.

-It was in the middle of the night and I was sleeping when bandits broke into our house. They hurt me and raped me. My husband tried at first to defend me, but then ran away. The children sat scared to death in a corner and watched, tells Jeanine. After the abuse, she was heavily depressed.

-I was completely destroyed, physically as well as mentally. I was not able to leave the house and the children, even though I was not capable of taking care of neither the children nor myself. My husband left me. He said he was sorry and disappeared, Jeanine recalls.

Sexualized violence in Congo

The war in The Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo) was officially over in 2003. Still the conflict is there, and one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises is taking place. Gender-based and sexualized violence is a big problem and is used as a military strategy in order to humiliate, frighten and control the counterpart. Each year thousands of women and girls are raped and mutilated. Official soldiers as well as rebels, police and civil men are guilty of the abuses.

Operated twice

After the abuses had taken place and the departure of Jeanine’s husband, Jeanine’s sister went to the Panzi Hospital and told them about Jeanine’s situation.

People from the Panzi Hospital fetched me. I was operated twice. I stayed one year in Dorcas (rehabilitation center supported by Norwegian Church Aid) transit center. I was totally unable to take care of myself, recalls Jeanine.

After a while she came out of her psychoses and gradually regained her strength.

-The first thing I asked when I woke up from my psychoses was: Where are my children? Then they let me meet them here at Dorcas. All the five was okay. I hadn’t noticed, but they had brought the children along when they fetched me and kept them safe here while I was treated.

-That was the greatest moment of my life! It was fantastic to see the children again. They were safe and sound, more healthy than any time. They were well nurtured, had been to school and were well cared for. Meeting my children was the turning point. It gave me my strength back, says Janine.

Belonging to the community

After this Jeanine became a partaker of the community in Dorcas’ house and received rehabilitation.

-I was so encouraged by those other women, and understood that there were hopes for a better life. Here I saw that it was possible to take control over life again, she tells.

When Jeanine came to Panzi she could neither read nor write.

-I did not get the opportunity to go to school at home, but here I got to learn writing and reading.

-When I finished school in Dorcas´ I got 10 dollar as starting capital. This is obligatory. I knew at that time where I could buy and sell things. 10 dollar soon multiplied to 50, and 50 became 100. Now I have a business where I sell firewood. From this business we have got a house to live in and what else we need, and my mother lives with me, she tells.

Jeanine has even got as much as enables her to give something back to Dorcas’ house.

-When the new center was built, I could contribute with one of the roof panels. I help parentless children. It is simply fantastic knowing such freedom, she says.

Hits men too

-My dream is that my children shall have an education. That would be the greatest joy and the ultimate confirmation of my achievement, Jeanine says.

She still feels the general threat of abuse.

-Rape is a tremendous threat! I still feel the fear of anything happening to my children. We have to put an end to raping. Many get their lives destroyed and many die. We cannot accept a situation like that, says the woman who is worried about the fact that rape does not hit women only.

-We must not forget that men are raped too. The bandits do not care about sex when they attack. Brave people have to fight to put an end to this. We must trust God and ourselves, she says.

Starts campaign

Jeanine has settled near Dorcas’ house, like many other women who has experienced similar things. For them the center is an important place for gathering. Just now Jeanine works with a campaign directed to men in order to make them respect women. She has a distinct appeal to her community.

-We need your support! Go on fighting against sexualized violence. Continue supporting our children. They are the future. Next generation will be a generation of hope, she hopes.

- School is an arena where information about abuse must be taught. Children must learn to support each other and make the women feel safe. Then the good forces may win, says Jeanine Cemenabo.