This is the story of Patience, told in her own words. In bravely telling her story, we are reminded of the realities facing women in areas of conflict, but also of the resilience and strength to rebuild their lives. The women that, with the right support, find new opportunities to leave a life of violence behind.
This is Patience’s* story
“I live in eastern DRC in Ituri with my young son. I am a member of a cooperative. In 2002, when I was still a minor, I was raped by two militiamen. When I was 15 years old, I joined that same militia, and after three months of training, I was a soldier.
One Tuesday at around 10am, I started shooting at the enemy. It’s a horrible story that I don’t like to tell because of what I experienced, what I suffered, what I did. It was horrible in the bush with the militia, I had no consideration for others. I took an active part in several expeditions and finally I decided in mid-2006 to withdraw from the bush. I managed to find a demobilisation programme nearby. Women working in the mine were exposed to all kinds of violence. Some practised prostitution, others debauchery. The work of women in the mine is deplorable and unacceptable.
I managed to find a programme nearby for former fighters. I got married but still could not adapt to home life. I suffered from trauma, I felt alone, and my husband was scorned for marrying a militia woman. I got divorced to join the mine, but the men mistreated us, the women had no rights, we earned very little, and with difficulty.
One Sunday, while at church, a notice was shared on a local group, Centre Résolution Conflits, coming to the area to speak to people working in the mine. This focused on the rights of women and children. They also introduced the trauma program, which really touched me. Since joining their cooperative, I have been part of the trauma counselling program, and things have improved more at home.
I’ve also been using different techniques to mine gold, and my profits have tripled! I have already bought two plots of land in my village, one is well built and already has 68 sheets and the other is well on the way. I teach my son at home and I am able to support my parents in their old age. I encourage my friends who work as independent gold miners to join the cooperative to benefit from the right support, and to increase their income. The CRC cooperative has made a big change in our community since the gold panners agreed to produce responsible gold without conflict, without mercury and meeting environmental standards.
Our sincere thanks to CRC for bringing this initiative to us, and to Peace Direct for their support.”
You can support more women like Patience to rebuild their lives.
*The name in this story was changed to protect the identity. All photos were taken at a gold mining cooperative, run by our local partner Centre Résolution Conflits (CRC).
The eighth annual Peace Direct Awards are now open for applications. The awards highlight the inspiring work that grassroots groups are doing to establish peace and rebuild communities in conflict-affected areas around the world. Read more »