Kinshasa - Raped in war and now walking tall, survivors of sexual violence took to the catwalk on Monday to model a collection of fabrics designed to show strength and solidarity in the face of abuse.
The 15 Congolese women – modelling in the capital Kinshasa – joined forces with Dutch textile firm Vlisco and five African designers to mark Monday’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
“When I was designing for them, I didn’t see victims. I just see incredibly strong women who have really begun to live after what they have been through and that is what is so powerful and what the fabrics and clothes try to represent,” said British-Nigerian designer Tolu Coker, whose clothes are worn by Rihanna.
Rape has been widely documented as a weapon of war in eastern Congo, which remains largely controlled by militia groups since the end of a 1998-2003 war in which foreign armies and rebels vied for control over mineral resources.
“While we know about war, I don’t think many of us really understand the lasting impact it has on women,” said Coker.