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Women for Women International Congolese Country Director, Christine Karumba, Speaks Out About the Rape Epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Girls as young as three and women as old as seventy-five have been raped and mutilated in Eastern Congo. "Women are dying two types of death," says Christine Karumba, Country Director, Women for Women International -- DRC. "The two types of death are the physical and the emotional death. The physical death is where you are no longer alive to walk the earth, and the emotional death is where you no longer see signs of hope and are dead inside."

Karumba has vivid recollection of growing up in the DRC and witnessing the trauma of living day by day not knowing if it was going to be your last became an everyday occurrence for many. The intensity and frequency of rape as a weapon of terror is worse than anywhere else in the world.

"Women are raped, mutilated and kept as sex slaves, then they are turned away from their families and left with no hope to rebuild their lives. Without hope, the women can not survive," says Karumba.

The United Nations reports 27,000 sexual assaults in 2006 in South Kivu Province alone, and Women for Women International estimates hundreds of thousands of women have been raped since the beginning of the conflict.

"Today in the villages where we work, women are still being raped. The difference is now women are talking about the rape and have a support network and hope," says Zainab Salbi Founder and CEO of Women for Women International.

Since 2004, Women for Women International has served 14,000 women and distributed $2.5 million in direct aid to the women of Eastern Congo. Women for Women International's holistic program addresses women's immediate economic and emotional needs and provides the job skills, health and literacy trainings to help women start small businesses and rebuild their lives.

In 2005 Women for Women International launched a Men's Leadership Program to train military, traditional and community leaders to use their social capital to advocate on behalf of women's rights and to stop rape. One army officer told Zainab Salbi that he never thought twice about raping a woman when he entered a man's house who didn't have a gun. "I had a gun, he didn't, I never thought whether or not I have a right to rape his wife... I always raped her." After the training program he understood the larger impact of rape on the woman, her family, himself, his family and their community. Now he teaches his soldiers not to rape.

"As we discuss the horrors that are happening on a daily basis in the DRC it is crucial that we look at women not only as victims but as the glue holding a society in chaos together. We must look at how we support these women in rebuilding their lives, providing hope for them, their families and their nation. One woman at a time," states Salbi.

Women for Women International helps women in war-torn regions rebuild their lives by giving them financial and emotional support, job skills training, rights education, access to capital and assistance for small business development.

Christine Karumba and Zainab Salbi are available for print and broadcast interviews.

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