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Burlington-area Congolese Women Head to D.C. Protest


Published February 6, 2009 at 12:42 p.m.

Seven Congolese women from the Burlington area are driving to Washington D.C. today. Tomorrow, they'll join a protest outside the White House gates concerning human-rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"We are going to protest because of what is going on in Congo," Kanene Felo, one of the seven women, told Seven Days this morning via cellphone. "The Women are abused, they are raped by the rebels from the army, and nobody is saying nothing, so we are going there to say something."

Felo, 50, is referring to documented human-rights abuses in her home country. According to the New York-based nonprofit Human Rights Watch, violence and rape is common in the DRC despite ratification of a January peace agreement. As Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, noted in July: “While the parties to the peace agreement attend talks . . . their troops continue to kill, rape, and loot civilians.”

When Felo and her compatriots return to Vermont, they will be "honored guests" at an upcoming production of the Vagina Monologues, according to a recent Peace & Justice Center newsletter. The theme of this year's performance, which runs from February 13 to 15, is "Stop Raping our Greatest Resource: Power to the Women and Girls of the Democratic Republic of the Congo."

The Obie-award-winning play, which was written by Middlebury College grad Eve Ensler, has been translated into 24 languages and is regularly performed at hundred of colleges around the country. In the last six years, UVM has raised $38,000 for local nonprofits through Monologues performances.