City of Joy

Madeleine Gavin

Inspiring documentary about Congolese women who turn pain into strength. In the ‘City of Joy’ in Bukavu, women and girls who were rape victims during the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, learn to come to grips with their past, to love themselves again, and ultimately to become community leaders.

In the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, rape is used as a weapon of war. The victims are often ostracized, left by their husbands and cast out by their communities. In Bukavu – sometimes called ‘the worst place on earth to be a woman’ – gynaecologist Denis Mukwege, playwright Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues) and Congolese human rights activist Christine Schuler-Deschryver establish the City of Joy, a centre where rape victims are turned into community leaders.

We witness how women who are traumatized by unspeakable sexual violence, learn to defend themselves, overcome their fears, tell their stories and ultimately to accept and love themselves. With tremendous resilience, they find new ways to create meaning in their lives and to once again participate in their communities, but this time as leaders. City of Joy – directed by Madeleine Gavin – is a beautiful and optimistic tribute to the human spirit.

Read more about activists Jane Mukunilwa and Christine Schuler Deschryver.

City of Joy has been selected for the Activist competition and the theme programme Second Sex.


Madeleine Gavin
Congo, United States
76 minutes
child soldiers, crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, rape, war & armed conflict