By Elvis Katsana
During the war in the province of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Awa* was one of the many women who was raped. In 2004, while she was gathering cooking wood for her family, she ran into a group of rebels. They held her down and their leader raped her. The 30-year-old doesn’t want to say much more about the incident because it brings back bad and painful memories.
“You can continue to live life with your head held high, even if you’ve been hurt. But the anger remains with you.”
Awa doesn’t want to be like other rape victims. She got a degree in business administration, and now she’s dreaming of creating her own natural brand of apple juice.
She sells apples that come from the region. “I buy apples that are grown in various areas in the province in big quantities.” The apples cost between € 0,20 and € 0,50 each. Apples are a relatively new product for people, so she doesn’t sell many. But she manages to earn € 4,50 euros a day.
Dreaming of her own brand of apple juice
Awa says she still hasn’t thought up a name for her apple juice. She’s waiting for a revelation, she says with a big smile, as she counts the money she’s made. Her child, who was born as a result of the rape, is at her side on the street.
Her plan is to open an a small production unit to make natural apple juice. Unlike in many parts of the DRC, there’s a steady supply of electricity in Bunia. She says, “it’s time to start buying products that have been manufactured locally”.
Awa says that it’s difficult to get money from NGOs, and it often comes with strings attached. The same holds true for banks, which don’t want to give her loans because she can’t provide guarantees that she will repay the loans.
Awa insists that “I do not want to talk about the difficult moment that I unfortunately went through. I’d rather talk about my business now and forget all of that”. She says she has big plans for the future, things that not even a rich man, has ever thought of.
She says she’s been following the trial at the International Criminal Court of the man known as “The Terminator” (Bosco Ntaganda). She hopes the ICC will find Bosco Ntaganda, who led the forces responsible for her rape, guilty.
“As a Christian,” she says, “I don’t believe in dealing with evil by committing another evil. But like any person who has been wounded, I believe there has to be some justice.” She hopes that the ICC will do what’s needed, despite the fact that it is so far away from the communities that suffered during the war.
*Awa (not her real name)
Lead image: Awa selling her apples in Bunia (Photo: Elvis Katsana/Justice Hub)