In the Book of Acts, Dorcas was a woman of great charity who helped widows and may have even been a widow herself. In those days, widows were often poor and isolated. When Dorcas died, she was so mourned by her beneficiaries that the Apostle Peter came to where her body was laid out for burial and raised her from the dead. And so it is at the home named for her in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Maison Dorcas, that women recover and find new life after being traumatized by sexual or gender-based violence.
Maison Dorcas was created by Dr. Denis Mukwege after the startling realization that 40% to 60% of women treated at Panzi Hospital were unable to return to their homes after medical treatment, either due to the extent of their injuries, risk of ongoing violence or the deep stigma attached to victims of sexual and gender-based violence. Panzi Hospital is known as the place where women who survive sexual violence go to be treated, and Dr. Mukwege is known as the “Doctor that repairs women.” In 2018, Dr. Mukwege received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in helping victims of gender-based violence recover. “For a woman victim of sexual assault and violence, the medical care is the first step in a long road to recovery,” Dr. Mukwege told PWRDF staff on a visit to the DRC. “We can and should do better by accompanying her until she can stand on her own.”
PWRDF supports Maison Dorcas in providing women with essential skills such as literacy, numeracy, and small business training which supports income-generating activities such as baking, soap-making, basket-weaving, sewing, and farming. The aim of this training is to empower victims of gender-based and sexual violence, to ensure that their livelihoods improve and they have the skills they need to re-integrate into their communities and their families.
Maison Dorcas acts as a transit and safety house for victims of violence and those needing extended medical care. Women at Maison Dorcas continue their healing journey along with other vulnerable women from their communities in a setting where they are safe and heard. They actively participate in their own decision-making, empowering them and building up their self-esteem. Many of the women that are cared for at Maison Dorcas also participated in the City of Joy Project with the goal of turning suffering into power, despair into dignity, pain into power, and fear into joy.
Jeanne, 22, was sexually abused at age 14. After receiving medical and psychosocial care at Panzi Hospital, she arrived at Maison Dorcas for vocational training and to finish her schooling. A psychologist there helped her accept the child she bore from the rape. Today Jeanne works at the Primate Conservation and Rehabilitation Project as an animal supervisor. Jeanne said, “I have become again a human person. Dr. Mukwege has rehabilitated my life, my dignity. I find myself in a team of men and women and together we discuss and plan. My voice counts in the decision-making.”
Support the work of PWRDF by visiting their webstie at: pwrdf.org