I will not be safe until all Congolese women are safe

September 24, 2010

We wanted to share with you this beautiful letter women’s rights advocate from the Democratic Republic of Congo Justine Masika Bihamba sent out to Amnesty members yesterday during our annual pledge drive.  We hope you are as inspired by her words as we are.

Justine Masika Bihamba visits Amnesty USA headquarters in September 2010.

Amnesty International refuses to forget me.

In 2007, armed soldiers broke into my house in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), held my children hostage and assaulted two of them. They did this not to rob my family, but to punish me for providing services to women who are sexually assaulted.

Despite my having identified the attackers to the police, no action has been taken against them.  I continue to face threats because I refuse to stop fighting for women’s rights.

Amnesty International members have sent thousands of letters to the president of the DRC urging him to investigate the attack on my family, including the sexual assault of my daughter.  Members have also sent me numerous letters of solidarity, inspiring me to continue my work to eradicate sexual violence.

Join Amnesty International today to ensure their work in all areas of the world continues. If you donate by September 30th, a generous donor will match your gift, dollar-for-dollar.

Congolese women who defend human rights have paid a heavy price for their actions. Many have been murdered, arrested, intimidated, threatened, tortured or disappeared. Others have been forced from their homes, their cities and their country to save their lives. Family members have also been harassed, intimidated and held against their will.

I will not be safe until all Congolese women are safe. Amnesty International understands that building international solidarity for women’s rights is essential to bring change to the DRC.

Amnesty is a driving force behind the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), which aims to revolutionize the way U.S. foreign policy confronts abuses like domestic violence, rape, honor killings and human trafficking worldwide. If passed, IVAWA will support measures to prevent violence and bring perpetrators to justice. It could help people like me assist survivors around the world.

It is Amnesty International’s commitment to fighting human rights violations everywhere that inspires me to pass on the candle to you.

Stand with me in support of Amnesty.


Justine Masika Bihamba