I’m enormously proud to announce that Christine Schuler-Deschryver is one of the guest speakers at our upcoming inaugural Women’s Empowerment Journey June 11 – 17, 2019 in South Africa. I was privileged to have been introduced to Christine through my close friend, Pat Mitchell. I’ve long admired Pat who has made it her life’s work to be a globally engaged advocate for women and girls, committed to the pursuit of full equality and social justice. When Pat relayed Christine’s story to me, I was struck by the profound resilience of the human spirit to reclaim hope and inspire others to do the same.
What makes Christine’s work all the more remarkable is that it is set amidst a backdrop of ongoing tragedy and turmoil, in a country with such stupendous reserves of the world’s most strategic minerals that its soils are purported to contain every mineral listed on the periodic table, including tin, tungsten, gold and coltan. The latter of which is a key material for the world’s technology industry by virtue of its ability to allow smartphones and electronics to hold a charge. An insatiable demand for these invaluable resources or conflict materials as they have come to be known, has led to an untenable situation in the DRC where countless militia groups, themselves in thrall to multi-nationals the world over, are clamoring for control of the mines. It’s here that the irony and injustice of the situation proves hardest to bear, for the people of the DRC remain one of the poorest in the world, and its women among the most brutalized, with rape a weapon of terror that serves to disrupt community structures and maintain disorder.
‘Violence against women in the DRC is nothing short of a humanitarian disaster that those international multinationals that benefit from the country’s conflict, choose not to see,’ says Christine, who is head of operations at City of Joy, a safe haven in the city of Bukavu. Christine co-founded the center in 2011 with obstetrician Dr. Denis Mukwege, himself a 2018 Nobel Peace Laureate who started Panzi Hospital (a self-funded facility where he has performed reconstructive surgery on over 40,000 women); and American playwright and activist Eve Ensler (who wrote the Vagina Monologues and is also the founder of V-Day). Together this courageous trio have formulated a program that helps these women, in a matter of months, to embrace their humanity once more and start to rebuild their lives by turning pain into leadership and power.
Christine’s story is also the subject of City of Joy, a Netflix Original Film that was released late last year. An intimate and inspiring account of the incredible community that Christine, Denis and Eve have built in Bakavu – the film cuts to the heart of a complex crisis in which most of us are complicit and gives voice to the immense power of compassion.
We look forward to hearing Christine’s story first hand in June when our Women’s Empowerment Journey kicks off. We will experience some of the most spectacular night skies and fossil treasures on the planet and we’ll visit the SA College of Tourism as well as The Herding Academy in Graaff Reinet where women are being trained to understand the relationship between holistic grazing and the soil’s water holding capacity and biodiversity, not to mention employment and food security. From there we’ll travel to the ancient semi-arid savannah of Tswalu in the Kalahari, a place inhabited by the bushmen for 20,000 years and the privately-owned nature reserve of the Oppenheimer family. Here, with our all-female team of pilots, guides, trackers, conservationists and chefs, you will experience one of the most pristine wilderness spaces on the planet, whilst hearing more from our curated panel of women speakers.
If you’d like more information on this incredible all-female journey, email firstname.lastname@example.org