A Winnipeg music and film producer is heading to Congo to implement a music program that aims to help rape victims in that country heal.
Darcy Ataman is travelling to the African country later this week as part of the Make Music Matter enrichment program, which uses music to improve the lives of people in areas affected by poverty and conflict by giving them the opportunity to express themselves.
"We quickly discovered that, 'Wow, music's an amazing way to get all these sort of taboo subjects out into the public,'" he said Monday.
A 2011 report by the American Journal of Public Health estimated that upwards of 1.8 million women in Congo have been raped during their lifetime.
Ataman will be going to the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, where thousands of victims of sexual violence have been treated since 1999.
"You need to build someone psychologically up enough that they can return to their home communities and bring the stigma down," he said.
It's not the first time Ataman has brought music to developing countries: for example, in 2009, Rwandan youth taking part in Make Music Matter sang about HIV and AIDS.
Manitoba's Congolese community is supporting the program's aim to help women get on the path to recovery.
Martin Mulimbwa, president of the Congolese Community of Manitoba, says the problem of rape in Congo is largely ignored even outside the country.
But he said he hopes Make Music Matter will change that by having people "start talking about these issues and hopefully find a lasting solution."
Dr. Denis Mukwege, who founded the Panzi Hospital, will be in Winnipeg in March 2014 for a special fundraiser at the Pantages Playhouse.
Money raised at the March 27 event, which is being promoted as an "evening of music and inspiration," will help support the hospital.
The Graffiti Gallery in Winnipeg will be sponsoring a related art exhibit at around the same time as the fundraising event.