"When I started the Women for Women program, I was afraid to speak. After being raped repeatedly, I had lost courage."

Honorata was once director of the Lycée Amani, a technical institute for girls. That ended in 2001 when she was gang-raped and abducted to the forest to become the most degraded kind of sex slave: "I did not belong to one person; I was for the use of everyone and anyone who needed me." After more than a year, she escaped and made it to the city. In 2004, however, she was living with her five children—her husband had deserted her for another wife—when militiamen broke in. Several stripped her naked and rammed themselves into her old wounds, flash-flooding her with traumatic memories. Her pregnant daughter was also raped. "I bled incessantly," says Honorata. But that was nothing to her compared with the loss of her value and importance as a person in society.

After several meetings with her group of 20 at Women for Women, she says, "I started to realize that I was not the only one who had gone through what I'd been through. And the opportunity to communicate with foreign sisters in the United States has been shocking and moving for me at the same time, and it encourages us to fight for women's rights here." After learning how to tie-dye as a stopgap means of support, Honorata is back to her activist self. "I am planning to travel to my village, Shabunda, to help women understand the election process so they do not accept gifts [from candidates], so they demand greater accountability from politicians. Our country has been in crisis mode for too long."


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