Unveiling Birth Under The Virunga Mountains

When the mist of the Virunga mountains rises, traces of the mountain gorillas can be found. With some luck, they can suddenly appear, the mountain gorillas, strong, playful, united, or in terrifying fights to show their strengths.

Their home, a vast volcanic landscape that stretches across eastern Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda, a paradisal home but also a target for guerrilla groups, where both the mountain gorillas and those who protect them are threatened.

The complex ongoing war in eastern Congo with various military guerrilla factions are affecting everyone, precious species, women, children, whole communities including local tea plantations.

The rippling hills with its exquisite volcano soil are spectacular and perfect for tea plantation. But the production of tea has been badly hit by the insecurity in the region.  To be out in a tea field is an enormous risk for getting raped or killed.

Destroying a woman through sexual violence is the most effective way to destroy an entire community. On the other side of the boarder, in Rwanda, which is safer, the tea production is the country’s main export product today.

Below the beautiful volcano slopes stretches Africa’s second largest lake, The Kivu lake, and in the southern part of the lake, Bukavu extends. The city of Bukavu constantly receives thousands of people fleeing their homes and lands due to insecurity. Bukavu has become well known for the work of Denis Mukwege at the Panzi hospital who received the Nobel Peace Prize 2018 for his fight against sexual violence.

The Min Systers Tehus Foundation continually supports women giving birth, survivors of sexual violence, at the Panzi hospital with a ”after birth kit.”

Some of the women, including young teens, stay at “La Maison de Dorcas” after giving birth, a « home » close to the Panzi hospital. At Dorcas, the women can stay for about a year to learn a vocational job to become independent and to be strengthened as mothers.

Min Systers Tehus Foundation has just done a follow-up at Dorcas to visit the woman who gave birth a few months ago and who also has received the «after birth kit». It is not only a practical purpose of the kit as to get clothes for the baby, but also a part of the preparation for motherhood. (See photo.)

 

The purpose of the visit is also for Maria Hogenäs to do a follow up as a midwife. To meet the teen and her baby and to evaluate her global situation together with the staff at Dorcas.

Josephine’s story

Josephine is 15 years old when she arrives at Panzi Hospital. The decision to come has taken her a couple of months. First, she did not understand that she was pregnant and then it took her some while to get the courage to talk to her aunty.

She hides her belly well under the colorful clothes when she steps into the bus. Nobody except her aunty knows that she is pregnant, not even her father, in fear of being rejected from the family or even rejected from the whole community.

When she arrives at Bukavu and the Panzi Hospital, she is paired with a Mama Cherie, a social worker who follows Josephine throughout the whole stay at Panzi. Mama Cherie is also the first one to ask her what has really happened at the field that day, the day she got pregnant. She feels how the body starts to remember and how her whole being freezes.

 

 A team of the Mama Cherie, a doctor, a psychologist or psychiatrist and a lawyer, make a holistic plan for her during her stay.

Josephine feels good about coming to Panzi, but she also feels terrified about her situation. She is still not ready to report the abuse even though she has the lawyers’ support.

Five months later, Josephine gives birth to a daughter. The midwife lays the new-born baby skin to skin on her. Josephine gives her the name Grace. The pregnancy has slowly helped her to come closer to the fact that she is going to become a mother, but it still feels unreal.

 Josephine cant go home. Mama Cherie and Josephine had made a trip back to her home village during the pregnancy to talk to her aunt and her father but with no success. The father has found out about the pregnancy and doesn’t want her back.

« La Maison de Dorcas « and the other women staying at Dorcas welcome her. There are two other teens with their babies already staying at the same room as Josephine. The team at Dorcas shows her around, where she can learn new skills such as sewing, leather work, or participate in music therapy or continue with elementary school lessons. 

Mama Cherie has promised Josephine that they will make another attempt to return to the village later and meet her father and aunty again.

This gives Josephine hope.

« Peace on earth begin with birth »

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