Women of Power Support Group: Finding Strength in Community
30 July 2018

Rosine* survived extreme violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“This support group is my family. You’re gunna think your problem is too big, then you share it with the others. You feel like you are rich even if you have nothing.”

In 2007, Rosine and her two children were visiting with family members in the Democratic Republic of Congo when chaos struck. Because her father was involved in politics, she and her family were targeted. The men who attacked them started raping members of her family and burned the house down. She was left in the fire to burn, but someone pulled her out. Disoriented and badly burned, Rosine was flown immediately to South Africa for medical care. Her two children were lost. Rosine does not know if they are alive or dead. A South African woman, Amahle, took care of Rosine, sitting with her at the hospital where she was treated for third degree burns over her whole body. Rosine cried for a month. Rosine was deeply disoriented and didn’t know where she would go or where she would start. Amahle became Rosine’s family. Rosine stayed in a room in Amahle’s home. In 2017, Amahle passed away. Rosine mourned her death, “She was like family. It was very painful when she died.”  

Rosine began making a living for herself by platting hair and selling chips in a small shop. For a period of time the shop owner allowed her to live in the shop, so she could avoid living on the streets. Eventually, Rosine found a partner and had a daughter with him. However, he left her, causing her more stress. Her child is now six years old and attends grade one at school.

Every three months she returned to Home Affairs to get documentation as an asylum-seeker. The journey required Rosine to walk a far distance, but it became very painful. Eventually she was walking with crutches, and doctors told her she had a bone infection. She had an operation on her left leg and stayed in the hospital for seven days. Rosine needs monthly check ups and another surgery, but she’s afraid. In her experiences at the hospital, nurses have treated her badly, argued with her, and lost her files. She said, “When they call I cry. I can’t stay at the hospital, maybe they will try to kill me.” Rosine expressed that she doesn’t feel safe enough to have another child, as it would require her receiving more services from the hospital.

Rosine has received some financial support to pay her rent and to start a small business, but was unable to get it off the ground with the small stipend. She has since learned baking from another NGO, but does not have the materials to start her own business. Her leg injury prevents her from standing for more than 30 minutes, which has made finding employment challenging.

Rosine is a part of the Women of Power support group at Jesuit Refugee Service. Women who have experienced Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) gather to share their experiences and other topics in a safe space. Rosine expressed that she feels a deep sense of community and fulfillment in this group. She shared, “This support group is my family. You’re gunna think your problem is too big, then you share it with the others. You feel like you are rich even if you have nothing.”

Despite the tragedies Rosine has endured, she says, “I thank God I’m alive”. Motivated by her daughter, she dreams of starting up a bakery: “I need to learn again. I like to learn. When you are baking you forget all your troubles.”

*All names have been changed for the privacy and safety of the women.

Sarah Garwood

Intern Advocacy & Communications Officer, JRS South Africa

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