Dr. Victoria Bentley
DRC Advisory Board
Who We Are
Empower Congo Women (ECW) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to helping war survivors heal, rebuild their lives and prosper in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
A grassroots effort, ECW was founded in 2009 by Dr. Victoria Bentley, a trauma psychologist based in Santa Barbara CA. ECW implements projects through Centre Ushindi, a legal charity it founded in Bukauv DRC, and through other grassroots agencies in the area.
Our mission is to help people in eastern Congo rebuild the fabric of society, because it has been under siege and disintegrating since the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide were given asylum there in 1995.
We achieve our goal primarily by empowering women through economic development, educating young women, and partnering with community-based agencies on sustainable agriculture projects.
In its third year, Centre Ushindi is a safe haven where women victims of sexual violence and at-risk girls can heal and rebuild their lives. Our approach is holistic: Women attending our center receive medical care, trauma therapy, vocational training, micro loans, and education in literacy, entrepreneurship and family planning. Additionally, we pay school fees for over 100 of their children, which takes an enormous burden off their shoulders.
Why We Care
Where We Work
ECW works in eastern Congo, in an area that has been traumatized by war, exploitation and neglect, where rape is rampant and people die of hunger amid lush surroundings. Specifically, we work in and around the cities of Bukavu, Mumosho, Nyangezi and Uvira, Sud Kivu Province.
Formerly the Belgian Congo and Zaire, DRC is the third largest country in Africa; it covers an area the size of western Europe, or the size of the USA east of the Mississippi River. DRC is the fourth most populous nation in Africa, with nearly 71 million people.
A Very Short Explanation of Why?
DRC has suffered two wars on its soil since 1994. The Second Congo War (1998-2003), also known as Africa's Great War, directly involved 9 African nations and by 2008 had killed almost 6 million Congolese, mostly from starvation and disease, making it the deadliest conflict worldwide since World War II.
Although the war officially ended in 2003, rape, terrorism and atrocities continue to this day in eastern DRC, primarily due to the international demand for "conflict minerals", which are needed to maintain the world's dependence on modern technological devices, such as computers, cell phones, video games, sophisticated medical devices and high-tech armaments.
Congo is the world's richest country in mineral resources; it is said to have every mineral on the periodic table under its soil in vast, untapped amounts. It is also said that Congo is too rich to ever have peace. Armed groups systematically rape women, children and men in mineral-rich areas, destroying opposition from the community and allowing them to rape the earth's precious minerals. While ethnic tensions began the war, greed now fuels the ongoing violence.