In honour of this year’s International Women’s Day, we’d like to place the spotlight on the brave young women who are making their voices heard through the Healing in Harmony program as part of the EGAL (Equality for Girls’ Access to Learning) project in Kasaï province, DRC.
Their personal stories of incredible resilience and healing offer hope for the future in a region that has seen severe conflict and violence throughout the past decade. These girls have experienced extensive trauma from sexual and gender-based violence, displacement, forced labour, early marriage, accusations of witchcraft, and stigmatization, resulting in varied physical and psychological repercussions.
The Healing in Harmony group therapy sessions offer a safe space for them to process their experiences and emotions, and ultimately, to heal, so they may be empowered to address the barriers that hold them back from reaching their full potential.
To date, 2559 youth in Kananga and Tshimbulu have taken part in the Healing in Harmony group therapy program. They have created a total of 93 songs (10 albums) that will be released locally.
The lyrics are a direct reflection of the trauma they have experienced, describing unspeakable atrocities and suffering. The album Ndi Muana Mubanda Mupongo (I Am a Girl They Call a Witch) addresses the recurring theme of witchcraft that is often a source of discrimination and conflict between families, extending across generations.
Children who have been accused of witchcraft commonly consider education to be of little importance as they face isolation and rejection. Their lives are filled with tears and sadness, hopelessness and shyness, and even the desire to commit suicide.
The artists chose the song ‘Ndi Muana Mubanda Mupongo’ as the title track because it’s a story that touches hearts and calls for change. They are in mourning and ask that they be allowed to flourish.
Why do you call me a witch? ×2
My parents insult me and call me a witch ×2
It’s not fair ×2
Whenever a situation arises between me and my brothers,
they always say I’m the wicked one ×2
My brothers and sisters, wherever I go, they call me a witch ×2
Iyeeeeeeeee, iyeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, iyeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
All my classmates insult me ×2
All my peers avoid me ×2
They all call me a witch ×2
I start to walk alone ×2
The desire for suicide crosses my mind ×2
In the group with whom I now sing ×2
I have been encouraged and I am moving forward ×2
-Lyrics from ‘Ndi Muana Mubanda Mupongo (I Am a Girl They Call a Witch)’
When we asked one group what their songs represented to them, they said they symbolized a great opportunity to forget the past and walk toward a better future. They chose the slogan: “Together, it is possible!”
The outpouring of support from the community has been monumental, with over 5000 people attending the series of concerts, cheering them on.
Local Healing in Harmony therapist Nathaniel describes the concerts as a general catharsis for the community.
“All of the artists were in uniform, which permeated a sense of belonging and being accepted,” he said. “The musical and emotional expression was evident, not only in the lyrics, but through the dancing of every song. Even those not on stage were dancing and singing. Everyone present expressed themselves in one way or another—there was a general catharsis from the community.”
Following one concert, one parent told us of the transformation they saw in front of them.
“I have never seen my daughter so happy and very expressive. She has not spoken at home or school for years and as such is lonely and is not very expressive. But that day I saw her singing and engaging with her colleagues and that made me very happy.”
We invite you to join us in applauding these inspiring young women and supporting them on their journey as they continue to pursue equality and the right to education in the face of adversity.
The EGAL project, funded by Global Affairs Canada, is made possible in partnership with World Vision and the Panzi Hospital and Foundation.