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A Listening Session Can Change Someone’s Life
Zawadi Nikuzi, HROC-Coordinator, North Kivu, Congo

When I got the invitation to attend the listening session, I was filled with curiosity. When I was told to say my healing name and its meaning and after we were told to step in the circle according to what was asked, I said this to myself, “This is a waste of time; it is childish. I would rather go do my errands.” But I decided to stay so that I do not disappoint the person who invited me. I do not regret attending this session for I was relieved from many things which were troubling me.
Male participant

In some African cultures it is not good to share your problems in public, let alone with strangers. It is believed that shedding tears is for women and, when a boy is crying, he is told that he is behaving like a woman. A man should not shed tears for man’s tears run to his stomach! (Rwandan proverb). What we have realized is that some of these proverbs are outdated because these were applicable long ago when people lived in peace.

After the M23 rebel forces left Goma, people were desperate to rebuild their lives, to move on but it was not that easy. People’s hearts were heavy filled with fear, hate and they were hopeless and helpless. Those in the internally displaced persons’ camps were totally confused wondering whether to go back to their villages because the safe haven was no longer safe or stay in the camps and wait for the unknown because there were rumors that the M23 was coming back to recapture the town of Goma. With the help of AGLI, we organized nineteen listening sessions which were attended by 382 people. It is a one day session and we invite twenty people for each session which is conducted by three facilitators. The agenda is easy and very basic with topics bringing people together. People are not used to attending sessions where they do not write so you find some participants trying to get a piece of paper just to write one or two things. The facilitators keep on reminding them not to write rather to listen what is being said.

We have experienced a lot of things in life. As I grew up I was told not to share my problems with people if I cannot get solutions. When I got here, I did not know what to expect. When I saw on the agenda “trauma stories,” I thought we would hear stories from other countries or people. I did not know that I came to share my story to strangers. When my turn came, I did not know which one to share for my life is full of trauma from my childhood to this very moment. As I was sharing I was fighting my tears because really men do not cry! Then I decided to let go and I cried and it has brought some relief. I have known the importance of sharing, my mask has fallen today, most people think I have no problems but I have them like anyone else. Please continue with these sessions to set free guys like me.
Male Participant

As I said it is not easy to open up to strangers in public but as participants gain confidence they do and do not want to leave the session. The result has been great -- more than what we expected. People shared their stories of trauma and it was quite overwhelming. We have realized that the need is big. We plan to have a listening room which will be opened during the week from Monday to Friday. There is need for basic HROC trainings to help people understand more and be equipped. We also get a lot of recommendations for trauma healing sessions for children. I think it is time we begin to plan and see what we can do to help the children who have experienced violence.

This day has been really helpful, I gained twice. It is usually hard for me to sit and listen to someone’s problems for more than 30 minutes. I was able to listen to people’s stories of trauma without complaining. Then, when my time came, people listened to me with love and compassion and I realized how I have been unfair to others. As I shared my story I could see people’s encouragement through their eyes and I felt relieved that I was not exposing myself rather getting solutions to my problems for I was able to hear how others deal with different problems. I will be sharing my stories and listen to those who need my help.
Female participant