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Unimaginable Violence Made Cecile a Widow and Mother

Cecile fled the Democratic Republic of Congo after the men who killed her husband came for her. Now a refugee in Uganda, she helps other women cope with trauma.

In a single horrific day Cecile Kanku’s* life changed forever. As she tended to her garden in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a group of men grabbed her, raped her, and left her for dead on the side of the road. That same day, Cecile’s husband was killed 

After a month in the hospital, Cecile was told she was pregnant. Soon, she heard that her attackers wanted to kill her. She had no choice but to leave. When I learned the men were looking to kill me, I ran away, she says.

Cecile fled toward safety in Uganda, alone, pregnant, and without food, through the forest.I would cut twigs from the trees and eat the leaves. She walked for two months. 

Cecile finally arrived in Uganda and was rushed to the hospital, where she gave birth. Cecile is among nearly 400,000 people who have fled from the DRC to Uganda to escape violent conflict. 

Through a CARE-supported program in Uganda, Cecile now helps other women who’ve survived sexual violence and tells the women not to be ashamed. “I started helping other women, telling them not to be discouraged by what has happened to them.”  

This work has made Cecile hopeful for what’s to come. “I hope that in the future there is a peaceful life for me, a better life, she says, “Today, I feel good.” 

Women like Cecile, who are fleeing emergencies, risk violence and exploitation on the road to safety. See other women’s stories and fight with CARE to make #WomenEqual.

*Name has been changed. Video editing by Kate Adelung and Brooks Lee. 

Updated Feb. 2020.

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