Sunday, 24 January 2021

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Ciné-ONU: City of Joy

On the 27th November, Cine-ONU screened ‘City of Joy’ at Cinema Galeries in Brussels, in partnership with UN Women, UNFPA and the European Commission to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

woman reading handout

‘City of Joy’ follows the first class of students at a leadership center in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a region often referred to as "the worst place in the world to be a woman." These students had been through unspeakable violence spurred on by a 20 year war driven by colonialism and greed. In the film, they band together with the three founders of the center: Dr. Denis Mukwege, 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner; radical playwright and activist Eve Ensler; and human rights activist, Christine Schuler-Deschryver, to create a safe haven in the middle of violence-torn Eastern DRC, a space they call ‘City of Joy’.

The screening was followed by a powerful panel discussion with Christine Schuler Deshryver, Co-founder and Director of V-day Congo and ‘City of Joy’ project, Jean-Louis De Brouwer, Director for Europe, Eastern Neighbourhood and Middle East (ECHO), and Sietske Steneker, Director of the UNFPA Brussels office. Petra Hongell (UNRIC) moderated.


Sietske Steneker commented on the importance of documentaries like ‘City of Joy’ “While ‘City of Joy’ is hard to watch at times, it is a documentary that needed to be made. It showcases the power of women. They were able to transform pain into power, and become an entirely new person. If you can achieve this, it is really quite remarkable.”

Christine Schuler Deschryver, when asked if Denis Mukwege winning the Nobel Peace Prize would make a difference on the ground, replied “It brings attention, that’s for sure. But for how long? That is always the problem. I’m not sure it really has changed much. For me, as long as I see beds that are filled with ravaged women and children, the war is still
going on.”

Jean-Louis De Brouwer turned to Christine Schuler Deschryver to say that “We need people like you and Mukwege, tackling these big issues. But I have a question to you. How many graduates from ‘City of Joy’ do you think it will take to see a change in the DRC?”

Christine Shuler Deschryver responded “The change can only come from the grassroots, not from the top. I don’t know the answer to this question but we are only treating the consequences of this war; what about the causes? We all know the causes of this war, what are we going to do is the question. ”


An audience member asked about the legal side of the sexual violence happening in the DRC. Christine Schuler Deschryver responded “Congo has the necessary laws, but we need the infrastructure to Implement them. For example, we haven’t got enough prisons. Impunity is another one. The Government have to play their role in this in order for us to be able to implement these laws.”

To the final question from the audience “Is there something we can do as consumers in the West?” Christine replied “First thing to do is not to change your cellphone every year. You
can also do you research, there are many reports out there that will give you all the information for you to make a difference.”

Jean-Louis De Brouwer pointed out the importance of visibility to issues like sexual violence “It is visibility and advocacy that is vital. It is about being connected. Spreading messages of
advocacy and accountability. This needs to happen. We simply have to wonder, if there was a civil war somewhere in Europe today, how would the average man behave?”

In conclusion, Christine Schuler Deshryver urged the audience “to feel energized from stories like those you just saw in ‘City of Joy’. Be an activist and to care about others. You need to connect with other people in your community. Knock on a door and talk to your neighbours.”


To see pictures from the evening, click here.

For more information about the film, click here.

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