Thanks to your generosity, survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in Eastern Congo receive opportunities to learn new livelihoods skills to gain financial independence, a sense of purpose and renewed confidence. Here, women learn how to sew and receive sewing machines, business training and supplies to start a sewing business.

Out of the shadows and into a fresh start

Trigger warning: sexual violence

Mary's* life unraveled the day she was violently raped while fetching water near her house in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She despaired when she realized she was pregnant and alone, having been blamed and shunned by her family when she needed them most.

Sadly, Mary's story is not unique. Thousands of women in the DRC are alone, destitute and living in the shadows after surviving violence. In addition to living with the trauma of their attack, some survivors contract diseases or are left with serious injuries. Many are abandoned by their spouses and stigmatized by their communities. They may find it hard to recover emotionally or to find employment.

Through no fault of their own, they are victimized over and over by someone else's decision to harm them.

Helping survivors of violence find hope, healing and a new life

Thankfully, a health worker directed Mary to a Corus World Health program designed to support survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. Through this program, women like Mary who have experienced trauma or domestic violence can receive health care — from post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV infection to basic first aid for their injuries — as well as emotional counseling, legal support ;to bring attackers to justice and livelihoods training to help women rebuild their lives.

Thanks to our generous donors, Mary received counseling, financial literacy training and sewing lessons. And with the sewing machine she received, Mary found hope in the way small scraps of fabric could become something useful and beautiful. She now has her own sewing business and the promise of a better future for herself and her son. She meets regularly with a support group of women who understand her experiences, and she no longer feels alone. Mary's smile and her self-worth have returned.

"I used to be known in my village as the woman who was raped," Mary says, "but now I am known as The Woman Who Sews." 

*Her name has been changed to protect her identity.